IN THE HOUR OF MY DEATH
A/N: By popular request... (aka, threats and pleas. Mostly threats...)
Bobby opened his eyes slowly to a whiteness that nearly blinded him. Groaning softly, he shut them again, unable to cope with the brightness that assaulted his senses.
“Hang on, Bobby. Let me close the curtains.”
His brow creased in momentary confusion. He knew that voice. Barek…
He listened half-heartedly to the sound of curtains being rustled. Then, her voice spoke again.
“There. Try opening your eyes now.”
He did, and was relieved to find that the lights had all been dimmed, and the curtains drawn. A moment later, he found himself staring up into Carolyn’s concerned features.
“Hey,” she said gently in greeting once she was sure his attention was on her. “How are you feeling?”
“Sore,” he mumbled.
“I don’t doubt it. That was a pretty spectacular fall you took.”
He was silent for a long moment, processing her words in his exhausted mind.
“I… fell? When?”
“You don’t remember?”
“Last thing I remember is waiting to go on stage to give the lecture.”
“Oh boy,” Carolyn murmured. “Okay… Well, you made it through the lecture okay, but you collapsed in the middle of answering questions. You fell right off the stage, Bobby, lectern and all. It was a damned good thing that you landed on it, and not the other way around. Otherwise, you would have had more than just bruises.”
He sighed faintly. He was glad he didn’t remember that. The pain aside, it would have been damned embarrassing.
“Where am I? This isn’t the hotel… is it?”
“No. You’ve been admitted to the hospital, Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. There was a doctor from here at the lecture… Actually there were five doctors there… Anyway, one of them actually had an ambulance waiting, like he knew you were going to collapse.”
Bobby groaned softly.
“Son of a bitch…”
“I heard that.”
Both Bobby and Carolyn looked around as House walked in.
“What do you want?” Bobby muttered sourly. “An apology?”
House shook his head.
“Nope. Actually, I’ve been called a lot worse than that. Anyway, you can take comfort in knowing that you spoiled my fun.”
“Excuse me?” Carolyn cut in incredulously. “Your fun?”
“I went to the trouble of riding with you in the ambulance,” House went on to Bobby, “and you didn’t even have the decency to wake up enough for me to say it.”
Once again, Bobby groaned softly.
“Fine. Go ahead and say it. Get it over with.”
“Well, there’s no fun in it now,” House retorted. “The moment’s gone forever.”
“Please tell me another doctor is treating me?” Bobby pleaded.
“I probably could have, if we knew what was wrong with you,” House said glibly. Carolyn stepped forward, then, increasingly irritated by House’s blasé attitude.
“What do you mean, you don’t know?” she demanded. “I thought it was bronchial pneumonia?”
House suddenly looked at her as though seeing her for the first time.
“I’m sorry… You are…?”
Her expression turned stony at what she perceived as his dismissal of her presence.
“Detective Carolyn Barek, Major Case Squad, NYPD.”
House regarded her offhandedly, and then looked back at Bobby.
“Is she your partner?”
“So… You’re just sleeping together, then?”
Carolyn went bright red, and House suspected that Bobby might have as well, had he not been too sick to care.
“Just colleagues,” Carolyn insisted, struggling to keep her voice even. House nodded, his interest already going elsewhere.
“Who is Erik?”
Bobby froze, his already ashen features turning a brand new shade of pale.
“Erik,” House repeated. “You started hallucinating in the ambulance. You thought the paramedic was someone called Erik. Who is he? Is he the guy that broke your leg?”
Bobby fell silent, not knowing how to even start explaining Erik Mathers to the doctor.
“If it isn’t pneumonia, then what’s wrong with him?” Carolyn asked, in an effort to redirect House’s attention. House shrugged.
“Don’t know. But don’t worry. I promise I’ll do my best to figure it out before you die.”
Bobby stared at House through eyes that were already starting to slide shut from sick exhaustion.
“Any chance of a… a medical transfer… back to New York…?”
“I wouldn’t recommend it,” House said. He paused, then added seriously, “We’ll figure it out. I promise you.”
Those words were the last that Bobby heard before falling asleep once more.
Dr Alison Cameron stared at her colleagues in open disbelief.
“House is actually with a patient? You’re kidding me…”
Chase and Foreman exchanged grins.
“For the third time, no we’re not,” Foreman said. “He supervised the cop’s treatment in the ER, and last we knew he was hanging around upstairs in ICU waiting for him to wake up.”
“Just for a simple case of pneumonia?”
“Not so simple anymore,” House stated, startling all three as he abruptly walked through the door. “Our pneumonia guy started hallucinating in the ambulance.”
“That’s not unusual,” Cameron pointed out. “If he had a high enough fever…”
“He had no fever,” House said flatly.
“That’s impossible,” Foreman argued, and Chase nodded in agreement.
“He couldn’t have pneumonia and not have a fever.”
“Exactly.” He headed over to the whiteboard and picked up a marker. “So what might present with symptoms for pneumonia, with a fever that comes and goes?”
“Rabies,” Foreman muttered. House gave him the look of a long-suffering parent, but otherwise chose to ignore the suggestion.
“Meningitis,” Chase suggested.
“Viral meningitis would present with extreme, constant fever,” Cameron said.
“But with bacterial meningitis the fever comes and goes,” Chase argued. House nodded, satisfied with that as a starting point.
“Hotel rooms are veritable Petri dishes of bacteria. Foreman, Chase, pay a visit to the good detective’s hotel room, and see what you can come up with. Cameron, get his medical history from him when he wakes up next… and try to get the story on that leg while you’re at it. And in the meantime, let’s start him on a full course of antibiotics for bacterial meningitis.”
Carolyn looked up as the door opened, and a young female doctor walked in, coffee in hand.
“I wasn’t sure how you liked it,” Cameron said as she handed the cup to Carolyn.
“This is fine, thanks,” Carolyn murmured appreciatively.
Cameron hesitated, looking with sympathy at Bobby, who was fast asleep.
“I need to get his medical history.”
“Please, don’t disturb him,” Carolyn begged. “Not yet. He hardly got any sleep at all last night.”
“I don’t suppose you can tell me anything?”
Carolyn smiled apologetically.
“Sorry, you’re asking the wrong person. I don’t know him well enough.”
“You’re not partners?”
“No,” Carolyn murmured. “We’re with the same squad, but we have different partners. Tell me something… Sorry, what’s your name?”
“Dr Cameron, do you work with Dr House?”
It took considerable willpower on Cameron’s behalf not to cringe. She could guess what was likely to follow that question. She could tell from the detective’s tone of voice.
“Yes. He’s my supervisor.”
“Is he for real?”
“He’s unorthodox,” Cameron conceded, “but he’s brilliant. Detective Goren is in good hands with him.”
Carolyn sighed softly. Unorthodox, but brilliant. Mike had used those exact same words to describe Bobby to her during her very first day with Major Case. At the time, she hadn’t been able to understand the admiration in Mike’s voice when he was telling her about Bobby Goren and Alex Eames. Then, she’d read the special file on them – the victims’ report from nearly two years ago, and she finally understood.
“Okay,” she said quietly. “That’s good enough for me.”
Cameron barely had time to be surprised at Carolyn’s acceptance of the acerbic House before the shrill sound of Carolyn’s cell phone ringing startled them both. Grimacing, Carolyn answered it with extreme reluctance.
“Barek… Oh, Captain Deakins… Yes, he gave the lecture. Um… I don’t think he’s going to be able to do anymore than that, though… Sorry, sir…? No! He really is s…”
Cameron watched as Carolyn waited for the tirade to end, and end it finally did, with the call being cut off very abruptly at the other end.
“That was your boss?” Cameron wondered, and Carolyn answered with a grim nod of her head.
“Yes. He wasn’t too happy.”
“What’s it for, all these lectures?” Cameron asked.
“Someone from the faculty here contacted our Police Commissioner and asked if he could spare a couple of his best police profilers for two weeks to talk to the students. Bobby’s name was at the top of the list. I’m here because I work in the same squad. Neither of us was happy about it, but our captain put his foot down. He seemed to think that we… Bobby, in particular… owed it to the Commissioner to cooperate.” She sighed softly. “Bobby was supposed to give a second lecture this afternoon. The proverbial is really going to hit the fan when it gets back to Deakins that I took it instead.”
“Well, it isn’t as though he has a choice in that anymore,” Cameron pointed out. “But if you’re really worried, Dr House might be willing to speak to your captain. I mean, normally he wouldn’t, but he seems to have taken a particular interest in Detective Goren. This time, he might make an exception.”
“He may need to anyway,” Carolyn admitted. “If Bobby gets too sick to make decisions for himself, I think you’ll find that it’s Captain Deakins who has medical proxy for him.”
“We’ll work that issue out if and when we come to it.”
“Do you have any idea at all what’s wrong with him?” Carolyn asked.
“We’re trying the treatment for bacterial meningitis,” Cameron told her. “Hopefully, that will turn out to be effective.”
“Meningitis?” Carolyn echoed incredulously. “How would he have gotten that?”
“That’s one of the things we’re investigating.”
Carolyn smiled at that.
“Investigating, huh? You play detective a lot?”
Cameron smiled as well.
“With Dr House? All the time. It’s what he’s best at, finding out what’s wrong with people. That’s why Detective Goren is best off right where he is.”
Carolyn nodded her acceptance.
“I believe you.”
Cameron hesitated, and then spoke tentatively.
“What happened to his leg? It’s just, we did an x-ray when he was brought in, to make sure he hadn’t broken it falling off the stage, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a leg that’s suffered so many breaks.”
“I can answer that,” Carolyn said quietly, “but it’s not my place. Bobby and his partner, Alex, are the only ones with the right to tell that story.”
“Must have been pretty bad, then,” Cameron mused, her curiosity hopelessly aroused.
“It was,” Carolyn murmured, thinking back to the victims’ report that she’d read, and the awful photos that had accompanied that report. “It was about as bad as you can possibly imagine. No one should ever have to go through what they did.”
Before Cameron had the chance to ask anything further, a faint moan followed by a painful, hacking cough alerted them to the fact that Bobby was awake.
“Hey, how are you feeling?” Carolyn asked gently.
“Like… like crap,” Bobby whispered.
“Well, we hope we’ll be able to turn that around for you fairly soon,” Cameron assured him. “In the meantime, Detective Goren, I need to get your medical history. Do you feel up to answering some questions?”
“On one condition.”
Cameron raised an eyebrow questioningly.
“And what’s that?”
“That everyone quits calling me ‘Detective Goren’. It’s just Bobby.”
“Well?” House asked as Cameron walked back into his office.
“You’re going to love this. Family history of schizophrenia. His mother is an institutionalised paranoid schizophrenic.”
House grunted unintelligibly. Cameron relayed everything else that she’d learnt. When she finished, House regarded her with disappointment.
“Nada on the leg?”
“The other detective said he might be willing to open up over it if his partner was here.”
“What, he needs her to hold his hand? You could have offered. He’s your type, after all. Damaged…”
Cameron glared at him.
“That was below the belt.”
“My specialty. Are Chase and Foreman back yet?”
“Well, go find out where they are. Make sure they haven’t gotten themselves arrested.” He got up, looking even more sour if that was at all possible. “I’ll be in the clinic.”
“Haven’t you already done your four hours for the week?” Cameron asked in confusion.
“Cuddy found out that I skipped out after seeing the good detective yesterday. She told me to make it up today, or she’ll have me in the clinic every day for a month.”
Cameron smirked as he headed out the door.
“Them’s the breaks.”
“I heard that,” his voice floated back to her. Smiling to herself, Cameron followed him out to do as he’d asked.
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