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22 April 2009 @ 10:12 am
House fic  
Title: Rapport
Fandom: House MD
Pairing: very subtle Taub/Kutner
Rating: PG-13, mature themes
Summary: Taub bonds with a patient who forces him to face his own pain. Spoilers up to Simple Explanation.
Author's Notes: Thanks to halflight007 for betaing.

The first time Dr. Taub had seen the patient, he had been late for work, walking a little too slowly, perhaps, in regards to the tentative position his job had been in recently. He happened to glance into her room as he passed, just as she had happened to look into the hall, and saw the same empty space in the back of her eyes that had taken residence in the mirror. She gave him no acknowledgement as he stepped into her room and walked straight to the foot of her bed to check her chart. She stared at the corner of the room, but he wasn’t really surprised. Reason for hospitalization: hit by a car while crossing the road, suffered a few minor fractures, was not due to be released for a few more days.

He nodded at her once as he replaced her chart. Haunted by the chillingly familiar look in her eyes, he turned and hurried the room without saying anything to her. He wasn’t ready to talk to her; talking to her would be like confronting his own pain, to admit that he and she were the same.

After House had directed Foreman and Thirteen to run some tests the next day, Taub was left with nothing to do, no one to talk to. He found himself outside the girl’s room, and after a moment’s hesitation, Taub walked into the room and to the foot of her bed. Another patient had been added to the room, an older woman who was sleeping. The young woman ignored her roommate, and he decided to follow her example. He tapped his hand against the foot rail until she lifted her eyes to look at him.

“Are you a doctor here?” she asked, without a trace of curiosity or concern.

“Yes,” he replied with the same level of detachment, looking to the crisp white pillow behind her. “I’m in diagnostics.”

“Is there something else wrong with me?” she asked with the same lack of personal involvement, not that he had expected anything else.

He tapped his fingers against the bottom rail again, leaving them to rest on the clipboard. “I just wanted to ask you a few questions.” To see how long she had been like this, to see if she really was the same. “Did you even look before you started to cross that street?”

She raised her gaze higher so that her vacant stare mirrored his own, and a slight smirk started to play along her lips. He no longer wanted to know the answer and disappeared from the room. The next day House’s patient deteriorated quickly, and he was too busy to worry about his own problems until the next day at lunch.

He went to the cafeteria and bought his lunch just like he used to. Tray in hand, he looked around for a place to sit. House was sitting with Wilson, occasionally stealing food from the other’s plate. Foreman and Thirteen were seated together, locked in quiet conversation. It was the first time he had thought about eating lunch at work since then, and there was no longer a place for him to sit. He dumped the entire contents of his tray into the garbage can and made his way back to the girl’s room.

She was seated upright in the hospital bed, a tray of food positioned over her lap. None of it had been touched. This time he sat in the chair next to the bed and found that he did not have to look at her as much as when he was standing.

“You really should eat,” the doctor in him said, although he had no intention of enforcing the idea.

“I’m not hungry,” she replied noncommittally. He had never really believed that before, that people’s emotions could actually cause them to lost interest in eating. But that was before.

“Why did you do it?” he asked, wondering if maybe she would be able to voice the thoughts hidden deep inside him.

“I think most people spend their entire life trying to fight death,” she said without looking at him, and the way her brow furrowed indicated that she had thought about this topic a lot. “Some people decide to give death a helping hand. And some of us simply stop fighting.” She lowered her chin so she appeared to be looking down, eyes too dry to produce any more tears. “Those of us who get left behind, we can’t follow them, because we know the pain, and we don’t want anyone else to suffer.”

He turned away from her, knowing that she had managed to see her own pain inside him without any other indication than his few unnecessary visits to her room. Or maybe all the walls he had built to hide from himself had come crashing down and the pain was visible for everyone to see. His wife had even been giving him additional space.

“It’s difficult to love again, even people you loved for years,” she continued in a low voice that forced him to lean closer to understand. “The doubt is always there that they’ll leave you as well, and it taints everything.”

He didn’t want her to know how deep her words reached, how they whispered to his darkest fears. Regardless, the lunch break was over, and he said goodbye, not making any promises that he would be back to visit her again. They both knew he would be there anyway.

She gave him a small smile when he walked in the next day, not a smile that lit up her entire face, but one that suggested she was grateful for his company. Her roommate scowled when he did not approach her and sat down next to the girl instead. She looked at him, and he tried not to pretend he was uncomfortable with her sad eyes focused so intently on him.

“What was her name?” she asked after a brief silence. “Was it your wife?” She indicated his wedding ring with a brief nod of her head.

“No,” he said, sliding his left hand into his coat pocket. “His name was Lawrence Kutner. He was a coworker.” He wanted to tell her more, everything really if she was willing to listen, but she had shifted her position so her back was against the pillow. He was slightly relieved as he was unsure if he would be able to handle talking about it. “What about you?”

“My boyfriend. We were together for three years, and I never once saw it coming.”

He placed his hand gently over hers and wasn’t sure which one of them was trying to comfort with the gesture.

The next time he entered the room, she was turned away from him, staring at the empty bed next to her. “What happened to your roommate?”

“She died, the lucky bitch.” She hunched her shoulders and sobbed, leaving him feeling helpless in the doorway. He couldn’t stop her pain when he was using her to hide from his own. He sat down in the chair next to her and held her hand while she cried for her loss, ad he refused to acknowledge that he had felt that deeply.

“Is there anything left for us?” he asked when she stopped.

“No,” her voice rang with a clear truth he could not deny and she sadly shook her head.

She was discharged the next day, and even though House expected him in his office, Taub went to say goodbye. He had never checked her name, and it didn’t matter before now. He took the wheelchair from the nurse who was supposed to be attending her and personally escorted her to the front door. To him her eyes look just a little frightened as she stood and prepared to face the world again.

“Take care of yourself, Dr. Taub,” she said as she turned and extended her hand towards him.

“You too,” he said as he released her hand for the last time. He watched her walk away until she turned ever so slightly to give him a single wave with her right hand. He realized he probably would see her again someday soon in the morgue, and wondered what would be the best approach in giving his wife the divorce papers.