IN THE HOUR OF MY DEATH
A/N: See? I didn't forget about this one. The muse had a sudden moment of inspiration. At 10.20pm last night. I could kill the fuzzball.
Some time later
“There’s nothing,” Cameron said, frustrated and tired from poring over multiple scans. These are all clear.”
“Not all of them,” Chase countered as he examined one of three chest x-rays that had been taken. He looked up at House grimly. “You were right. He does have pneumonia. It’s visible on the x-rays now.”
“Keep looking,” House said flatly, not bothering to look up. Foreman glanced at Chase and Cameron in frustration before speaking tersely.
“Why? If he has pneumonia after all, we should be upping his dosage of penicillin to combat it.”
“He has pneumonia,” House agreed, looking up at Foreman with a withering stare. “But it's not all that's wrong with him. The pneumonia alone wouldn't have made him this sick.”
“How can you be sure of that?” Foreman argued. “From what we've found out, the guy is an absolute workaholic. That was proven when he went ahead with that lecture, despite being sick.”
“There's something else,” House insisted. “There has to be.”
“Why?” Foreman pressed. “Because you'd feel like an idiot for taking on a patient with a simple case of pneumonia? Whatever the poison was that was in his body, there is nothing there now...”
“Found it,” Chase spoke up suddenly, his voice taking on an urgent tone. Throwing Foreman a triumphant smirk, House got up and walked over to look at the scan that Chase was examining.
“There,” Chase said, pointing to a small, foreign object that was perhaps just fractionally bigger than a pin, and presently appeared to be trapped in one of the pulmonary blood vessels linking Bobby's left lung to his heart.
“Assuming that's it,” Cameron said, peering at it with a frown, “it looks like it's trapped in the vessel.”
“But it might not be for long,” Chase said. “And if that reaches his heart...”
“He'll be dead,” House said flatly. “We have to get it out.”
“Any suggestions how we do that?” Foreman asked, unable to keep the scepticism from his voice. “Without risking pushing it further along the vessel, towards the heart?”
House stared at the scan for several seconds before speaking quietly.
“We go into the vessel from the opposite end to the lung. We go in through the heart, and push it back into his lung. From there, we can open up the lung, and get it out.”
His words were met with stunned silence. When someone finally spoke, it was Cameron.
“But... to do that, you'd have to...”
“Stop his heart,” House agreed.
“The risks are too high,” Foreman said sharply. “If it takes too long... or if we can't find the right vessel, he could end up a vegetable, or dead...”
“If we do, he may die,” House agreed. “If we don't, he'll definitely die. Personally, I'd like to take the option that at least has a question mark over it. Cameron, Chase, get to ICU and talk to them. We're going to need signed authorisation from whichever of them wants to take responsibility. Foreman, start preparing for the surgery.”
“Before you have permission?” Foreman asked, sounding none-too-surprised. House ignored the question, and headed for the door.
“What are you going to do?” Chase asked.
“I'm going to talk to Cuddy. Get moving!”
Cuddy stared at House blankly, not quite sure that she'd heard right, and fairly praying she'd heard him wrong.
“You want to stop his heart? House, did you read your own notes on his charts? He'll never survive! You know he won't!”
“No,” House argued. “He might not survive. Not definitely won't. There's a difference.”
“I'm sure that'll be very comforting to his friends and colleagues when they attend his funeral,” Cuddy snapped. “The answer's no, House. You can't perform the procedure.”
“I don't want to perform it. I want Foreman to perform it.”
Cuddy glared up at him.
“He can't perform it, either.”
“Well, if you have any brilliant suggestions on how we get that piece of metal out of his body, then I'm all ears,” House snapped.
“Did you consider trying a magnet?” Cuddy shot back sarcastically.
House froze, staring at her in shock. Cuddy happened to glance up at him at that moment, realised what was going through his mind, and promptly started up out of her chair.
“House, don't you dare...”
“It's okay,” House assured her quickly as he began to back towards the door. “If anybody asks, I'll happily tell them it was all your idea.”
But he was already gone, and she could hear the clip of his cane as he hurried away from her office as fast as he could. Cursing softly, she slumped back into her seat, and prayed that he knew what he was doing.
“Are you serious?” Mike asked incredulously when Chase and Cameron finished explaining the procedure. Deakins spoke in a low, dangerously calm voice.
“You want to cut into him and stop his heart so that you can move the fragment you've found back into his lung?”
“We know how it sounds...” Cameron said, but Deakins cut her off.
“Just answer me one thing, Dr Cameron. What are his chances of surviving an operation like this?”
“They're not good,” Chase answered quietly when Cameron appeared to freeze. “He has maybe a twenty-five percent chance of surviving, but if we don't try, his chances of surviving are zero. That fragment isn't going to stay where it is for long, and when it does eventually become dislodged, it's going to be carried straight into his heart. If that happens, it will kill him.”
“Now I know the meaning of that rock and a hard place thing,” Mike said bitterly.
“There's no time to debate this,” Chase insisted quietly. “I'm sorry, but we need permission to go ahead with the procedure.”
Deakins pressed one hand over his eyes, feeling sick to his stomach. The decision was his to make; he'd ensured that when he decided to go to Jersey. He didn't like it, but it was the position he'd placed himself in, for better or worse.
He looked back down at Bobby's ashen features once more. The detective had lost consciousness again soon after his and Angie's arrival, and Deakins suspected he was not going to wake up again. If the procedure the doctors had outlined was the only chance Bobby had, then there was no other choice. He had to let them try.
“Do it,” he said finally, in a strained voice. “I'll sign whatever you need signed. Do whatever you have to do to save him.”
Chase nodded, grateful that the captain seemed to comprehend the extreme urgency.
“We'll bring it in for you to sign when we come back to get him for the surgery.”
And then Chase and Cameron were gone. Deakins turned around slowly, anticipating accusatory glares from everyone else in the room, but it didn't happen. Instead, Angie slipped her arm through his, and hugged him to her.
“It was the only choice, Jim. Whatever happens, at least we know they'll have done everything they could.”
“That's not going to make any of us feel any better if we end up having to bury him,” Deakins whispered, clinging to his wife for much-needed support.
“That's not going to happen,” Alex argued, her voice shaking audibly. “It's not. He's going to be okay. You'll see. They'll get that thing out of him, and he'll be okay. He has to be...”
Mike walked around and wrapped his arms around Alex in a fierce hug as she broke down in a flood of tears.
Please, let him survive this, Deakins thought in growing despair. Please...
“We got their permission,” Chase said grimly as he and Cameron arrived back at the office at the same time as House. “They're not happy, but they've agreed. The captain said he'd sign the necessary papers when we're ready to take Bobby into surgery.”
“Forget it,” House said as he pushed past them into the office. “We're not doing it.”
The two younger doctors exchanged baffled looks.
“We're not...?” Cameron asked. “Then how are we going to get it out?”
They watched as House rummaged around in a drawer before producing a small metal ball bearing, and a magnet.
“We'll use a magnet.”
“A magnet?” Chase echoed. “That's crazy!”
House set the ball bearing on the desk top, and laid a single sheet of paper over the top, holding both down with one hand. With the other hand, he held the magnet a few inches above the ball bearing, and began to move it along. The ball bearing began to roll, being dragged along by the force of the magnet.
“We open him up, and then use a magnet to move it back into his lung, and extract it. As simple as that.”
“House, that's dangerous...” Cameron started to argue, but Chase cut her off.
“No... He's right. It could work! It's crazy, but it might just work! We wouldn't have to take the risk of stopping his heart, and he'll have an increased chance of surviving the surgery... at least a forty or fifty percent.”
“Go,” House told Chase sharply. “Tell Foreman the change of plan. I want to do this immediately.”
Chase ran from the room.
“A magnet?” Foreman echoed incredulously when Chase told him. “Son of a bitch... That's so crazy, it might actually work!”
“Do we have anything we can use?” Chase wondered, looking around the OR. “It needs to be powerful enough to move the fragment against the blood flow.”
“Don't you worry about that,” Foreman told his colleague with a grin. “I've got that under control. You just worry about keeping him alive while he's on the table.”
Chase nodded his acquiescence with a faint smile.
“You've got a deal.”
It was quite conceivably the worst wait any of them had ever endured. Absolute silence reigned from the time Bobby was taken for the surgery, as they all sat lost in their own thoughts and fears.
Alex accepted comfort from no one, standing alone at the window of Bobby's ICU room, and clutching his shield in her cold hands. It sickened her to try and imagine life without her partner, after they'd been through so much together. And yet the irony wasn't lost on her, that there was a strong possibility that Bobby would lose his life as a result of Erik Mathers after all. It would be a horribly bitter pill to swallow if that were the case. To have survived that nightmare on the mountain... the incident in Denton... and that second business back on Gore Mountain, only to die in a hospital in New Jersey?
She looked down at the shield in her hands. The thought was just about more than she could stand, and she knew right then that she couldn't face the prospect of working without Bobby. If he died now, there was no way she would be able to stay with the NYPD. It would simply be too painful.
The minutes ticked by with agonising slowness. They'd not been provided with any sort of possible timeline for the surgery, and so they had no way of knowing how long it should take. All they knew was that with every passing minute, the waiting became more difficult, and more painful.
When, nearly two hours later, the door of the ICU room opened and House walked in, they were all nearly beside themselves.
“Well?” Deakins asked in a strained voice. House hesitated in answering, looking past him to where Alex still stood by the window, watching him with fearful eyes. They were all trying to brace themselves for the worst news and, for once, he didn't feel like making things worse for them. He stretched out one hand and opened it to reveal a thin piece of metal in the palm of his hand.
“Anyone care for a souvenir?”
The response was like a wave, relief crashing over each one of them as realisation struck that Bobby had survived the surgery.
“Do us a favour, Dr House,” Deakins said in a strained voice, “and get rid of that thing.”
House nodded amicably, and slipped it away out of sight once more.
“So, he's okay?” Carolyn asked.
“Not yet,” House answered seriously. “I won't lie to you and say it's over, because it's not. He’s still critical, and he could still die. We’ve got the offending fragment out, but now we have to analyse the poison to work out what drugs to give him to combat it. We’ve put him into an induced coma to try and keep him stable until we can figure that out.”
“How long will it take?” Alex asked. “How long to figure out how to fight what Mathers poisoned him with?”
House regarded her soberly.
“I don’t know,” he answered honestly. “But we’re doing our best.”
She nodded, indicating her acceptance of his words.
“I believe you.”
“He’ll be brought back here as soon as he’s been stabilised,” House told them. “My people will keep you updated.”
He turned for the door, and was just on his way out when Alex spoke again.
“Thankyou, Dr House.”
He paused, and looked back at her. The two of them locked stares and, for a brief moment, it was as though no one else was there. Finally, House broke away and continued out of the room, muttering under his breath as he went.
“Thank me when we know he’s going to live.”
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