Author: Vicky
Category: angst, romance
Summary: When one of their own gets sick, the Atlantis expedition must call on one of the best doctors of the Universe.
Season/Sequel: season 6 for House MD, and season 5 AU for Stargate Atlantis
Spoilers: Anything up to Broken is fair game for House.
Rating: G
Archives: my website, Command Dynamics, Atlantica, Abydos Gate: Fanfiction, others ask please, I never refuse
Disclaimer: I own neither the show nor the characters. I don’t earn any money; I just do it for fun.
Author’s Note: Written for the Cuddy Fest 2009 on livejournal for the prompt "She's never been able to say "no" to Carson Beckett". I need both Carson and Elizabeth to still be in Atlantis, so nothing past Tao of Rodney ever happened in Atlantis. Many thanks to my beta, Jess, who did a great job as always!

When Worlds Collide

             She had never been able to say no to Carson Beckett.
         She had met the Scottish doctor while she was at the University of Michigan. He had been there on an exchange program, and they had hit off the moment they met. She had found a friend, a confidant, a brother even in him. They had been close the entire year he had been in Michigan, and for the second time in as many years, she’d had to say goodbye to another friend. They had kept in touch through the years, but they had never seen each other again.
         Twenty years ago, she had never been able to say no to Carson Beckett, but he had never used it to his advantage. Instead, it had always been to her benefit. He had usually used it to drag her out of her room, when he thought she was working too hard.
         She had never been able to say no to Carson Beckett in twenty years, but this time she was going to have to.
         As she returned her look to the man sitting on the other side of her desk, she noticed that he was fidgeting. She had never thought that a General, a Major General if she wasn't mistaken, could be anything but calm. Knowing that he was waiting for an answer, she opened her mouth to speak when her office door opened.
"I need to do a brain biopsy on the patient."
"Unless you give me a good reason, the answer's no, House."
"He could die?"
"Try again. Now, leave, I have a meeting."
"Oh, he can stay," the general, whose name she still didn't know, replied. "We were talking about you, actually, Doctor House."
"Me? Well, I'm flattered but I think I'll leave now. I've spent enough time around the military."
"I know, but I still think you should stay. You might be interested in what Doctor Cuddy and I are discussing."
"We weren't discussing anything, and we won't," Cuddy intervened.
"Oh, if you made her angry, then I'm staying," House said, taking a seat on the couch.
"You want me to lend you one of my best doctors," she continued, ignoring what he said, "with no explanations other than a letter from an old friend from Michigan?"
         From the corner of her eyes, she could see that House's interest was pricked. She didn't know if that was because they were asking for him, or if it's because of her friend.
"What do you want me for, whoever you are?" House asked. "I don't know about you, but I like to know the name of the people I'm talking to, usually."
"Major General Jack O'Neill, US Air Force," Jack answered, extending a hand for House to take, but he withdrew it when the doctor did nothing but stare at it. "I need you to come with me to one of our bases to diagnose a patient."
"And this patient can't come here because...?"
"Sorry. I can't tell you more until you've agreed to come with me, and you've signed some papers."
"Oh, this is all secret, I see. I've worked for the CIA once, you know..."
"I know. Nice job, by the way."
"If I say yes, and I stress the 'if' there, I'll need my team."
"That's a no."
"I'll reconsider this if I were you. You know, I've just been released from a psychiatric hospital."
         Cuddy raised an eyebrow at this; she’d never heard House talking so freely about Mayfield before. She never heard House talking about Mayfield before, period. So to hear him say that to a complete stranger was quite surprising.
"That was over three months ago. You're perfectly fine; you're not even taking Vicodin anymore, if my files are correct. You only need your team to bounce ideas on and to do the tests and treatments for you. You'll have people to do that with where we're going."
         Cuddy and House both stared at Jack with surprise. Whoever he was, he was well-informed since only a handful of people knew about Mayfield. But still Cuddy wasn't ready to let House leave with him. Not if she didn't know exactly where he would be; he was her employee after all. And she told Jack so.
"Very well. You can come with us, Doctor Cuddy. Doctor Beckett had warned me that it might be your condition."
"Wait! I didn't say that."
"Yeah, she didn't," House repeated; if he was going then he definitely didn't want Cuddy to come along. "Plus, there's the baby-devil."
"My daughter, Rachel," Cuddy explained, narrowing her eyes at him. "Though, my mother is here, and I guess she could stay a few more days..."
"Great. That's settled, then," Jack replied, already taking his cell out of his pocket. "I have a phone call to make to arrange everything. I'll meet you outside in fifteen minutes."
         He left Cuddy's office before they could say a word. They looked at each other, confused as to what had just taken place.
"I guess I should call Wilson to cover for me. And I can't even tell him where we'll be," she put her head in her hands, sighing.
"You didn't have to come with me."
"It's not like I asked!"
"Yes well... Why Wilson, by the way? Since I won't be there to annoy her this time around, I thought you would ask Cameron again." Before she could answer though, he continued. "You don't trust her with your precious hospital!" he accused her.
"It's not that! I just feel better leaving the hospital in Wilson's hands."
"Especially since you won't be here to come and check on it every hour or so."
"Yes, ok, yes, you've figured it out. Now, leave. Go tell your team that they'll have to diagnose your patient without you," she said, picking up her phone to call Wilson's pager. "And tell them to try and not kill him."
         House rolled his eyes, but did as he was told for once.
         While she waited for Wilson to come to her office, she wondered for a second if she was right to have let House out of her sight. But she quickly dismissed this thought as she realised that even if Jack didn't tell them a lot, it was still enough for him to not disappear.
           Jack was waiting just outside the hospital's doors when Cuddy pushed the doors opened. He took time to observe her as she was talking to one of the nurses. She was just like Carson had told him she would be. He had also asked for some information on her, and what he had found had surprised him. The board had warned her several times about House and her association with him, but she had ignored them every time and had supported House even when she shouldn't have. He mused that their twenty years long friendship, or whatever it really was, might be the reason why.
"You won't have any problems for taking me along?" Cuddy asked, though she wondered who could cause any problems to a Major General.
"Nah. Like I told you, Beckett warned me about it. Actually, I would have been surprised if you didn't come."
"Yeah. And well, the President told me to do everything to ensure that Doctor House came back with me."
"Of the United States?" Cuddy exclaimed.
"Who else?" Jack replied, shrugging.
"The person you want House to diagnose must be important then," she deduced.
"In a way, this person is..."
"You won't even tell me the gender of that person," Cuddy said, shaking her head in disbelief.
"I'm sorry, but for the moment, I can't tell you anything else."
         Jack spotted House joining them, and without a word, he gestured for them to follow him to the waiting black sedan.
"So, where's your base?" House couldn't help but ask. "I'm guessing it's not too far from here seeing as we're taking a car."
"That's only the first part of our journey," Jack answered, before turning to the young lieutenant who was acting as his driver. "We're going to McGuire."
"Yes, sir."
         They had barely taken off to a destination still unknown by Cuddy and House, when the latter yawned loudly. Cuddy rolled her eyes at him, knowing that he wasn't really tired, and was most likely just trying to get something out of Jack.
"Well, since I think that we have some time before we land wherever you're taking us, I'm going to take a nap. It's time anyway," he finished, looking at his watch.
"Sorry, but I need you to read and sign some papers for me," Jack replied. He took two pretty heavy stacks of paper out of his briefcase, and set one before each of them. "Sign the first and the last pages, and initial the others. Oh, and you should read those pages, too," he added as an afterthought.
"Are you kidding me?" House asked, dumbfounded; he didn't even need to turn towards her to know that Cuddy's face was matching his. "I don't even do my own paperwork, and you want me to read what looks to be a hundred pages?"
"A hundred and twenty," Jack clarified. "And you have to, if you want to go treat that patient."
"You need me. Even if I choose to not read and sign these, you can't just turn this plane back."
"You're right. We do need a talented doctor. I'm pretty sure there are other doctors out there who are more willing to help us. I can still ask the plane to turn around, if you'd rather...," Jack said, starting to get up from his seat.
         Cuddy couldn't help but smile at Jack's words. He was counting on House's ego and as she saw her employee reach for the papers, she marked this moment down as another one where the anagram of his name came true: huge ego sorry.
"What do they say, anyway? Don't talk to anybody about what you're going to see, or else we'll have to make you disappear?"
         Cuddy's smile grew bigger at what House said. But at Jack's serious look, she couldn't help but exclaim.
"You are kidding!"
"Sorry, but no. You have to understand that the number of outsiders knowing about what you're about to know is limited. The only reason why we made an exception for you it is that Doctor Beckett requested your help. Now, I suggest that you do as I told you and read those documents. Once you know everything, you'll understand why this must stay a secret."
         Cuddy and House exchanged a look before they turned towards the papers before them. They could both feel that it was going to be a long flight, no matter where they were exactly going.
         They landed at the Peterson Air Force Base, in Colorado, and were now in yet another black sedan. Cuddy and House still didn't know where they were going as Jack refused to tell them. She was starting to feel slightly annoyed at that, and she guessed that if she was only starting to feel that way, then House must be way past his breaking point.
         And by the tone of his next words, he definitely was.
"We've signed, initialled, and read all your documents. Why the hell don't you tell us where we're going?"
"And as I've told you before, not just now."
         Jack sighed and briefly wondered if Hammond or Janet had ever felt the way he was feeling right now whenever he nagged them about one thing or another. If they did, then, he could probably understand them better now, and he felt sorry. But as House asked the same question again, he decided that this was definitely worse than whatever he could have done in the past. Looking heavenward, he wondered if Janet was somehow trying to get her revenge on him. And if she was, he wasn't blaming her.
"How can you stand him?" he asked Cuddy.
"I don't," she started, before House interrupted her.
"I'm the best; she doesn't have a real choice here."
"You wish. But the thing is, House, you're the one who doesn't have a choice, here. No other hospital wants to employ you, because they fear they can't handle you."
"So, we're in Colorado," House changed the subject, still wanting to know where they could be. "We're obviously going somewhere in the mountains... I'm guessing... NORAD?"
"Impressive," Jack had to recognize. "You're right; we're going to Cheyenne Mountain, but not to NORAD."
"Where to then?"
"You'll see when we get there."
         Just as House was about to reply, Jack's cell rang. Taking it out of his pocket, he smiled as he saw the name displayed on the screen.
"Yes, Sam? We're almost there. Is Space Monkey ready?" he asked, then paused, listening to her answer. "Tell him to make it short. No more than five minutes. I know he won't be happy, but you know I can be easily bored." He paused once more, and chuckled. "You can tell him that if it lasts more than five minutes, I'll be sure to give Vala his credit card next time you two go shopping together. See you in a few," he finished the call, hanging up. "That was Colonel Carter. She'll accompany you to your final destination. I wish I was going with you too, but I have a boring meeting to attend."
         Cuddy nodded in answer while House just kept looking outside. He had come to Colorado before, but never in this part.
         He had to admit, at least to himself that his curiosity was pricked by everything Jack had told him since they first met, a few hours before. But the fact that they were going to Cheyenne Mountain, but not to NORAD was surprising to him. He didn't know that there was another Air Force installation in the mountain. He really wondered what they could possibly ask of him.
         Cuddy needed to sit down, but right now, she couldn't. It was a lot to take in; she had just stepped foot on another planet, in another galaxy, thanks to what those people called a Stargate, which did something she really didn't understand. She was in Atlantis, something she had thought to be a myth up until today.
         She didn't only need to sit down, she also needed to throw up. One look at House told her that he was feeling the same.
"Just breathe slowly, it'll pass," Sam said, knowing how they were feeling.
         She did what she was told, and a minute later, she felt better. Looking up, she saw two people in uniforms standing before her, waiting for them to recover. The woman gave her a small smile, and she smiled back.
"Welcome to Atlantis. I'm Doctor Elizabeth Weir...," she started, before getting interrupted by House.
"And this is Colonel John Sheppard," she continued. "We're going to take you to the infirmary. You can ask any questions on our way there, and we'll try to answer them as best as we can."
"We're really in another galaxy?" Cuddy couldn't help but ask; she knew she should be asking about the patient they were here for, but it was the first question that came to her mind.
"We're in the Pegasus Galaxy, three million light-years away from the Milky Way," Sam answered. "If you want, I'm sure that Doctor Weir would tell you about Atlantis' history," she added, and Elizabeth nodded in agreement.
"I thought we were here to work?" House said. "By the way, before you ask: the cane is not a metaphor, I'm a cripple so if we can forego the stairs. And that's not a request."
"We have transporters, don't worry about stairs," John replied.
"Cool. Oh, and don't worry about the accommodation. If there aren't enough rooms, I'll share Cuddy's bed."
"House!" she exclaimed, blushing slightly.
"Don't worry about that either, Doctor House," it was Elizabeth's turn to answer. "The City is about the size of Manhattan. There are enough rooms for everyone."
"Tell us about the patient," Cuddy asked, before House could say another thing; she needed to shift his interest from her to his work.
"Lieutenant Laura Cadman. Her team was on an off-world mission last week, but Carson ruled out that she caught anything off-world as the rest of her team is fine."
"Symptoms?" House asked
"She has fever, muscle soreness, headaches, which is why Carson thought it was the flu, but the treatment he gave her didn't work. And then, she started experiencing memory losses. She's in an isolation room. We don't know if she's contagious, but we can't take the risk of exposing Atlantis to an infection. However we don't think that if it is indeed contagious that it's a real risk, though," Elizabeth finished.
"You don't know what she has, how can you know that it's not too contagious?" House said on a tone that clearly showed that he didn't understand how she could say that.
"During our first year here, we've experienced a contagion. The City locked itself down immediately when she realised what was happening," John replied, as they neared the infirmary doors. "Here we are. I believe Beckett will be able to tell you more on Cadman's condition," he said, as the doctor approached.
"Lisa! I'm glad to see you, lass," Carson said, hugging her.
"I'm glad to see you, too. Though I wished the circumstances had been different."
"Aye, me too. We'll catch up later, but I think you'd like to see Laura..."
"No, thanks," House interrupted him, before he could show them the way.
"How can you treat your patients if you don't see them?" Sam asked, dumbfounded.
"I have ducklings. But since they aren't here, and I can't contact them, you two will act as them," he said, gesturing to Cuddy and Carson, before entering a room. "I need a whiteboard. And no need to hurry, it's not like the patient could die. Oh wait, she could!" he added, popping his head outside to look at them.
"Is he always that charming?"
"I did tell you in my letters..."
"I think McKay's going to have concurrence in the arrogance department," John said, before clapping his hands together. "You know what would be great?"
"No John," Elizabeth stopped him before he could go any further.
"But you don't know what I was about to say."
"I think I do, actually. We'll leave you to your work. If you need anything, just radio me. John, Sam, I believe we have a meeting planned," she motioned for them to follow her.
"They seem nice," Cuddy remarked.
"They are. I don't know Colonel Carter that well, but Elizabeth and John are great commanders."
"You know, I never would have thought you'd end up working in another galaxy. But of course, I didn't know we could travel to another galaxy," she added with a smile.
"I know it's quite surprising. I'll tell you more about all that later. You two have signed the clearance, right?" he asked, not wanting to repeat the error he had made when he first met John.
"If you mean the hundred pages General O'Neill told us to read and sign, then yes."
"Why don't we go and join Doctor House?" he said, after having shared a smile with his long time friend. "I think I saw a nurse bringing him the whiteboard he requested."
         They entered the room to find that House had already written Laura's symptoms down. He was staring at them intently, and while Carson wondered what he was doing, Cuddy knew that it was how he decided what to do next.
"I suppose you have no way to do a CT Scan..."
"We can actually. As you can see, the Ancients, the people who built this City millions of years ago, were a pretty advanced people. We have everything you need."
"Cool! Then, do a brain scan and search for tumours, aneurisms, anything. If you find nothing, do a full body scan, and again search for tumours. Start her on broad-spectrum antibiotics..."
"We don't know what she's suffering from, yet!" Carson protested.
"You want me to diagnose her? Then, let me do my job."
         As she saw he was ready to protest again, Cuddy put a hand on Carson's arm, and squeezed gently. As she and Carson left, she turned one last time in time to watch House pull his tennis ball out of his backpack. She wondered briefly why she wasn't even surprised that he had taken it with him.
         Cuddy walked down the hallways with no idea of where she was going. She had ushered Carson to bed when he had let slip that he had barely slept since Laura had fallen sick. She was pretty sure that House was still working; she knew him enough to know that he wouldn't be able to sleep until he could diagnose his patient. One look at her watch told her that it was past midnight back in New Jersey, but she didn't feel like going to bed herself any time soon. She could go back to the infirmary and help House, but she didn't know what more they could do for the moment. The scans revealed nothing, and the antibiotics were of no help.
         Sighing, she rounded a corner, and nearly bumped into Elizabeth.
"No, it's my fault, I wasn't looking where I was going," Elizabeth replied with a smile. "How's Laura doing?" she asked.
"There are no changes. At least, that means that she doesn't get worse."
"But she doesn't get any better, either. Carson and Doctor House are still working?"
"House is. And I've sent Carson to his room when I found out that he had barely slept these past few days."
"He's always the first to tell me to rest, but when it comes to him..."
"You know the saying, doctors are the worst patients."
"What about you?"
"I needed to go for a walk. And actually, is there a way to get some fresh air, somewhere?"
"Yes, of course. Follow me.
"I don't want to bother you..."
"You're not bothering me," Elizabeth reassured her. "I'm done for the day, and I was actually going outside for a while."
         Silence fell upon them, and Cuddy took time to observe the leader of Atlantis. She realised that in some way they were quite similar: they were women in what could be considered as men's jobs, and they had to prove themselves day after day.
         As they stepped onto the balcony, Cuddy's breath caught in her throat; they were surrounded by the ocean.
"That's... Wow."
"Yes, that's quite a sight. You should see the City from above though. It looks like a snowflake on the ocean. If you have time before you have to leave, I'll ask Colonel Sheppard to take you and Doctor House for a ride, if you want."
"I'd like that." Cuddy took a deep breath of the fresh ocean air, before continuing. "I'm worried about Carson. He seemed quite concerned about Lieutenant Cadman's state."
"That's quite understandable; they dated for some time."
"I see."
"So, Carson told us that you’ve known each other for twenty years."
         Cuddy smiled, and then processed to tell Elizabeth everything she could remember about Carson from that time. She was pretty sure that there was some interesting material in here that the other woman would use to her advantage if she needed to.
"You know, you're lucky to have Carson as your CMO. Since I knew him, I hoped, I knew that one day someone would recognize his work."
"He's one of the best doctors we could have had. Although, he doesn't always trust me when I tell him this."
"Then, he hasn’t changed one bit. He was the same in Michigan. He would always dismiss it when a teacher told him so. Actually, I guess that was a change for them from House's ego."
"Doctor House was in Michigan too?" Elizabeth asked, surprised; Carson hadn't told her that when he asked for House to come.
"Yes. But Carson didn't know him. He arrived the semester after House left. He only knows about him from what I told him when we were in Michigan, and in my letters after that."
"Can I ask you something?"
"Doctor House seems quite...
"A pain in the ass?" Cuddy finished for her.
"I was going to say special, but I guess that works too. Why do you keep him?"
         Cuddy knew that question was coming. For anyone who didn't know them, it was surprising that she kept risking her position as Dean of Medicine every day when she could just fire him. Even people who knew them and worked with them didn't really understand. So it wasn't a surprise that Elizabeth wanted to know.
"House is probably the best doctor you can find. His ways of finding the answers aren't the most conventional ones but it's the way he works. He has one motto: everybody lies, which is why he'd rather send his team into the patients' home than to ask them questions. The thing is that I'm the only one who can control him in some way. Other hospitals refuse to hire him because they know that he'll bring lawsuits. I have to put aside thousands of dollars each year to pay for those. I know him, I know when to really listen to him, or when to dismiss him."
"I know how you may feel. I have two troublemakers here too. John and Rodney, that's Rodney McKay, our head scientist, they can be quite a handful sometimes. There are days when I feel like I'm working with five year olds. Once, they'd found a room with a computer and they thought it was a real-time strategy game and they started playing. Turns out it wasn't a game, but everything they did happened on another planet. They created quite a mess with that, you can imagine."
"Don't tell me, you were the one who had to fix it?"
"Yeah," Elizabeth sighed, remembering the disaster it had been at first.
"About Carson... He seems quite worried about Lieutenant Cadman's well-being..."
"They dated for a while two years ago, but that didn't work out. They were cute though."
"I see." Cuddy took another look at the City, before sighing. "I should get back to the infirmary and see if House needs anything. Thank you for having taken the time to show me this. Oh, and Doctor Weir?" she called, as she was already at the door. "If we have time before leaving, I'd like to hear about the story of Atlantis."
         Elizabeth smiled and nodded in answer. She watched as Cuddy left the balcony, before returning her gaze towards her City. She would stay there for a while more before going back to her quarters to work on some translations. But just as soon as she thought that, the balcony door opened, and she turned, thinking it might be Cuddy coming back to ask her something. Instead, she found herself facing John.
         She turned back towards the ocean, and heard him walk towards her to join her at the railing.
"I've just seen Doctor Cuddy coming back inside," he said, his hands brushed hers as he rested them on the railing.
"Yeah. She was in need of some fresh air, so I brought her here."
"Did our City impress her?"
"She did. I've told her that if we have time before she and Doctor House have to go, that you would take them for a ride in a Jumper so they can see Atlantis from above."
"Sure. You'll come with us, too. You can take a break once in a while, Elizabeth," he said, before she had time to protest.
"I guess."
"How's Cadman?"
"No changes. Doctor Cuddy told me she sent Carson to bed after she found out that he hadn't had a proper sleep since Laura fell sick."
"Good. By the way, you should follow his example, too."
"Come on. I'll walk you back to your quarters."
         Knowing she wouldn't have the last word with him, Elizabeth sighed, and turned to follow him.
"Do you plan to tuck me in, too?" she asked, blushing slightly at her own words.
"If I have to," he replied with a smile, and she blushed even more.
         They walked in silence towards her quarters, and once before them, she opened the door, before turning back to John.
"Breakfast, tomorrow?" she asked.
"I'll come and get you at 0700. That'll give us time before the briefing."
"Goodnight, John," she said, entering her quarters.
         He waited until the door closed before walking towards his own quarters.
         Cuddy entered the room House was in to find him staring at the whiteboard, and balancing his ball on his cane at the same time.
"Thought you left," he said, without turning.
"I just went outside for a while. Do you have anything?"
"Not yet."
         Knowing that he wouldn't say anything else, she sat on the chair, and decided to go through Laura's medical file once more; maybe she had missed something the previous two times. What surprised her the most was that she was the only person on Atlantis to be sick. Seeing as how they lived in close quarters, Cuddy had thought that other patients would slowly make their ways into the infirmary. At least, that way they could forget about contagious disease.
         Getting slightly restless, she got up from her chair and went to check on Laura. As she looked at the monitors, she noticed that her fever was still high. She was about to turn away when something caught her eyes.
"You can add RBD to the list of the symptoms," she told House as she came back into the room. "I've just seen it happen." As she watched him write it on the whiteboard, she wondered out loud. "Only ten percent of women suffer from RBD, if it's linked to whatever she has, we have to find what it is."
"I'm pretty sure that's why I'm here," House replied, his voice full of sarcasm.
         Rolling her eyes at House, she went back to sit on the chair and looked at him as his gaze rested on the whiteboard. Her eyes felt heavy, and a look at her watch told her that it was past two a.m. back in New Jersey. She rested her head on her arms on the table, and decided to close her eyes for just a few minutes. The last thing she remembered before she fell asleep was House draping the white blouse she had removed earlier over her shoulders.
         She opened her eyes when the smell of coffee filled her nostrils. Blinking sleep from her eyes, she sat up and smiled gratefully at Carson when he handed her a cup.
"I think Elizabeth assigned quarters for you so you can sleep there instead of here on the table."
"My intent was not to fall asleep but to rest my eyes. Where's House?" she asked, after having noticed that he was not in the room.
"He went for a walk. I think his leg was hurting."
"His leg is always hurting in the morning," she replied without thinking, but at Carson's look she regretted it. "It's nothing like that. Nothing happened between us since Michigan. Nothing but a kiss," she added before she could stop herself. "Damn it! Why is it that I can't stop talking when I'm around you?"
"Because you know I would listen to you."
"Listen about what?" House asked, coming into the room.
         Cuddy froze for a second, hoping that he hadn't heard what she just told to Carson. But as he didn't do or say anything, she guessed he had only caught Carson's last words. Deciding to get back to the matter at hand, she turned to look at the board, hoping that some sleep helped clear her mind enough to see what they were all missing.
"What if the memory loss was caused by something else? I know we ruled out a tumour or an aneurism with the brain scan, but a concussion could explain that too..."
"One that didn't leave any visible marks?" Carson looked sceptic, and she could understand him.
"And it would appear at the same time as the other symptoms?" House asked, raising his eyebrows. "Since when do we believe in coincidences?"
"Then what House?" Cuddy was getting quickly frustrated; she liked watching House work, but she didn't like not knowing what to do.
"I see you added another symptom on the list?"
"Yeah, I noticed it when I went to check on her during the night." Putting her hand on her forehead, she turned towards her employee. "So what, House? Do we wait for other symptoms to appear?"
         She watched as House slowly turned towards them. She watched him as his lips stretched into a small smile. She watched and realised that he finally had the epiphany they were waiting for.
"We search for something that should be there," he said, limping out of the room.
"What?" Carson exclaimed as he and Cuddy followed him. "What are we searching for?"
"A tick, or a tick bite. There's no rash, but that can happen, so search for a bite, everywhere."
         And they did search: between her toes and fingers, in her hair, on her legs and arms. The three of them searched her entire body without noticing that Elizabeth and John had entered the isolation room.
"A-ha!" House suddenly said, as he was searching the back of her knee. "Got it! Tick bite."
"She must have removed the tick during her post-mission shower without even noticing it," Carson said, as he took a look at what House had found. "I should have searched more thoroughly."
"You wouldn't have found it if you didn't know what you were searching for," Cuddy tried to reassure him that he’d done everything he could.
"Put her on doxycycline for three weeks, and she should be out of here in no time," House said.
"You've diagnosed her?" Elizabeth asked, making her and John's presence known to them.
"Lyme disease," he answered. "Given the symptoms, we caught it in stage two."
"Test her from time to time, but she should be ok," Cuddy finished for him.
"Thank you," John said, and Elizabeth repeated the sentiment as Carson squeezed Cuddy's hand. "What about that ride around the City? You both feel up to have it now?"
"Sure!" Cuddy answered with a smile.
"I thought that by now you were ready to go back home to your baby-devil?"
"You could use her name once in a while," she replied, rolling her eyes. "It's not like it's very difficult to pronounce it. Ra-chel," she slowly said. "Try it: Ra-chel."
"Whatever you say. I believe there was something planned?" he stirred the conversation back to its original subject.
"Let's go, then. Elizabeth is coming with us, so that she can tell you the story of Atlantis she promised you, Doctor Cuddy."
"That's..." Cuddy stopped, unable to find the words as John manoeuvred the Jumper around Atlantis.
         Turning her head to look at House, she could see that he was as enthralled by the view as she had been just a few seconds ago. She guessed that he had just realised that he really was on another planet. She knew she did.
         There was nothing but the ocean around the City as far as she could see. Atlantis itself was like a snowflake lying on the ocean. The view was just breathtaking.
"There's nothing but the ocean?" Cuddy asked, as Elizabeth finished telling them Atlantis' story.
"There's a mainland twenty minutes away," John replied. "The Athosians, Teyla's people, lived there for nearly two years. If we had more time, I would have taken you there."
"Quite fascinating," House said, and one look at him told Cuddy that he was talking about the City. "And you said that it was built millions of years ago?"
"Yes. The Ancients were probably one of the most advanced races. We're their descendants. John, as well as some others, has the same gene that they had to activate their technology. Carson managed to develop a retroviral gene therapy to transfer the gene to those who don't have it. But it doesn't take in everyone. I don't have the gene despite Carson's attempt."
"This gene therapy...," House started, but Elizabeth stopped him, knowing where he was going."
"It isn't authorized back on Earth."
"No, House," Cuddy said, as she saw him about to ask another question.
"You don't know what I'm going to say!"
"You were going to ask if there was a job for you, because you believe that there would be no need to follow the rules."
"And if I was?"
"I'm sorry, Doctor House, but for the moment, we don't need anyone," Elizabeth said before he added anything else. "Before we go back, John, maybe you could give them a better view of the planet?" she suggested.
"You mean that this can go into space too?"
"They wouldn't be of much use, otherwise," John replied, as he flew the Jumper higher and into space.
         Cuddy and House once more looked outside, as John turned the Jumper around to show them the planet. The ocean was present on most of the planet, but as they were told, they could also see a continent.
"It's amazing," House said, voicing both his and Cuddy's thoughts.
         She couldn't help but smile at that; House wasn't known to let his feelings show, but she guessed that he just couldn't help it. She understood why after everything they had seen or heard since they left the hospital with Jack.
"You have a very beautiful planet and City here," Cuddy said, and Elizabeth and John smiled.
"We do. Let's go home, John."
         As John flew them back, Cuddy watched as Atlantis slowly came into view, growing bigger as they came closer. For the first time in twenty years, she was really glad that she wasn't able to say no to Carson Beckett.
"It was nice seeing you again, Carson," Cuddy said, hugging her friend.
"You too."
"Next time you're on Earth, I expect a visit."
"I'll come. I have to meet Rachel, after all," he replied, kissing her cheek. "Thank you, Doctor House," he said, extending a hand to him
         To Cuddy's surprise, House took Carson's hand and shook it, while nodding in answer. A small smile appeared on her lips at that exchange, as she turned towards Laura.
"Take care of yourself, Lieutenant."
"I will. To say that something so small did all this to me!"
"Well, germs are even smaller, and can do a lot worse," House replied, his sarcastic tone ever so present.
"Thank you," Laura just replied.
         Once more, House just nodded. He usually avoided patients at all costs and to see him with one was something Cuddy wasn't used to.
"Let's go," he just said, walking towards the infirmary doors.
"See you soon," Cuddy told Carson, squeezing his hand one last time. "Oh and Carson?" she called, stopping on the threshold. "One day, I'll be able to say no to you!"
"We'll see about that, Lisa, we'll see about that." Turning towards Laura's bed, he smiled at her and patted her hand. "Can I get you anything?"
"No, I'm ok. Thank you."
"I haven't done anything. If it weren't for Doctor House..."
"You would have found what I had."
"I'm not so sure about that..."
"I am," she stopped him. "I know you. You wouldn't have given up." She sat up in her bed, and tugged on the hand resting on the bed, to get him closer to her. She kissed his cheek, before locking her gaze with his. "I trust you."
         He smiled at her, squeezing her hand.
         Maybe, just maybe, he could try asking her for a dinner when she was finally out of the infirmary. And maybe she would say yes.
         They stood before the Gate as it closed after having sent House, Cuddy and Sam home.
"They were nice," John said to his companion.
"Oh, and did you notice that he is completely... What did you say last time? Oh, yeah, smitten?"
"She is too."
"They don't seem ready to admit it, though, not even to themselves."
"Sometimes, it's hard to recognize what is just before your eyes," Elizabeth replied, turning to look at John, and giving him a smile.
"You're right as always. But still, life is short, and you never know what might happen."
"Live each day as if it's your last. That's a pretty good idea."
"Well, I have them. Could have been Mensa, remember?"
"I think I do."
"So... Dinner and a movie?"
"That's a date."
         He watched as she walked up the stairs to the control room. He continued watching as she talked to Chuck on the way to her office. He sent her a smile back as she smiled at him when she was walking on the catwalk.
         He finally turned away and left the gateroom, wondering if he should try and convince her to watch the movie in his quarters.
"Where have you been?" Wilson asked, as soon as she and House stepped into the hospital.
         Cuddy's first thought when she stepped back on Earth had been to go home to Rachel, but she knew that she had to check on the hospital first. She trusted Wilson enough with it, especially since House had been with her, but she was still worried about it.
         So, as she heard the oncologist, she grew even more worried. But as she saw him walk towards her, she relaxed; he was acting just like his usual self.
         She watched as the two men started to talk, Wilson asking again where they had been, and House refusing to answer; he would drive his friend crazy, but this time, he wouldn't really be responsible since they had signed documents saying that they couldn't disclose this information.
         Leaving the two men behind, she walked to her office, and wondered, not for the first time since leaving Atlantis, if she would be lucky enough to see it again.