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Chapter 11: A Cherry On Top


 

They didn’t talk much. Honestly, what was there to talk about? They didn’t know each other well enough to cry on each other’s shoulder and spill childhood injustices or share the names of the teachers that made their lives better. And yet, it didn’t seem appropriate to talk about the weather (which was still crappy, if you were wondering).

Chase had always thought that, in disaster situations, that was the side of yourself you shared. The “here, let me rub a stranger’s back while we sit and cry” side. Cuddy and Chase sat side-by-side in the snow, and no back rubbing took place. Not much self-sharing took place, either.

Chase told Cuddy the myth of the Australian Drop Bear, a mysterious and inherently evil cousin of the koala who prayed upon hunters in the outback by dropping out of the trees and scratching at their faces—hence “Drop Bear.”

Chase wondered why he used to be scared of them. Cuddy wondered how anything related to a koala bear could be “evil.” They were both wondering why he told the story to begin with.

Occasionally, Cuddy would stand up and brush the fresh snow off the hood of the Land Rover, not accomplishing much besides making her feel less helpless. About every half hour, one of them would wonder aloud where Wilson and House were by now, whether they were safe, what they were talking about. Chase and Cuddy found it especially fun to speculate about that last part.

Chase was first. “They’re probably standing outside of a gas station with a six-pack of beer.” And as audacious as it’d be if the statement were true, neither one could withhold the sort of smile that suggested that such a thing was to be expected of Gregory House.

And while Cuddy was initially against such irrational speculation, there was a part of her that warmed up as if spoon-fed Campbell’s when she said, “Wilson probably has a new wife by now.”

They shared a chuckle, imagining House and Wilson down in Rio with nothing to do except laugh about leaving Chase and Cuddy to freeze their asses off in the Pocono’s. That, and get laid.

Cuddy stopped as the glare of the sun broke free from the clouds and hit her eyes. She looked up, expecting to find the offender high overhead. Instead, the light was coming from far to the west, just above a little crease at the peak of a mountain. It was later than she thought. Much later.

“Chase,” she said, and nodded her head in the direction of the sun. “It’s been four hours. Past that, actually.”

Chase nodded briskly. He’d known for a while that four hours had come and gone.

He and Cuddy didn’t say anything for a minute, but they both knew that if anyone was going to speak, to suggest action, it’d be Cuddy.

“We have to do something, Chase.”

“I know, but…we can’t.”

“Why not?”

“What are we supposed to do? Yell for help? Nobody can hear us. Are we supposed to go looking for them?” He frowned and shook his head. “We don’t know where they went or how far they got. If something happened to them—“

“Don’t,” said Cuddy, finding some way to mix an authoritative tone with a pleading one.

“The same thing would happen to us,” Chase finished.

Cuddy eyed the hill.

“We can’t sit here and do nothing.”

Chase suspiciously eyed Cuddy eyeing the hill.

“You’re not…No way, Cuddy. You’ll break your neck!”

Cuddy laughed humorlessly. “Better than starving to death.”

And now she made no effort of hiding her gaze. She stared at the slope like a tiger who’d tasted blood. Chase sat there, unsure of why he was putting up a fight. His stomach growled. His knee throbbed. His head spun in the throes of dehydration. And yet, there was that small part of his brain that needed a good reason to believe Cuddy. It was the same part that, very rarely, allowed him to be more like House than people gave him credit for. Surprisingly enough, genius epiphanies and stubbornness seemed to go hand in hand.

He did however, underestimate the powers of persuasion that accompanied a job like hospital administrator. Cuddy was counting on it.

“My wrist feels fine,” and she demonstrated the statement by rolling her hand around every which way, biting the sides of her cheeks to conceal a wince.

And in true ‘But that’s not all!’ fashion, she continued. “Look, you can watch me the whole way up, guide my steps. You’re right Chase, we don’t know where they are. Even if we did, you can’t walk. We’d be separated. This way, we’re still technically together, and if it doesn’t work…we’ll do what you say, wait for help here.”

Chase squinted and frowned, a look that on him greatly resembled capitulation. Her argument was a really, really good sundae—one that would be great if only it weren’t missing a cherry on top.

So Cuddy added the cherry. “Really Chase, what do we have to lose?”

Chase frowned, but nodded, and pretty soon, he was staring at the slope too. They eyed every inch of that hill, as if staring down a particularly tricky opponent. He knew and she knew: Cuddy’s ambition was equal to the task.

They had no idea that less than two miles away, Gregory House was doing the same thing.



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May 2012

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