Eight Festivals Lisa Cuddy Observed (Eight Hanukkah Candles Remix)

by Kass

This is a remix of uarazy2's story Eight Hanukkah Candles. Thanks for letting me play in your sandbox!

I. Hanukkah

The menorah burns silently, each flame reflected in the polished wood of her desk.

It seems so small, suddenly. A ridiculous altar on which to have been pouring out her fears. Even the head of pastoral care can't convince her there's a God out there listening.

Detective Tritter made a mess of everything, and she let him because she thought he was right. No quantity of regret now can make that different. God has nothing to do with that.

House will be broken because he always is’—he always was, even before the infarction. He's on the self-destructive course he's always been on, and God has nothing to do with that.

And whether this pregnancy will take? Whether her deepest desire will come to pass, or (wrenching as it is to imagine) not’—she doubts God has any control over that either.

Strangely, the menorah is comforting even so.

II. Pesach

Wilson knocks on her door around six to see if she wants to have dinner downstairs. He's strangely intent, and at first she snaps, "I'm buried in paperwork, why don't you drag House?"

But when she sees the wounded look he quickly hides, she relents. "Sure," she says, wishing she'd been more gracious. "You're right, I could probably use the blood sugar."

She wouldn't have noticed the date, except the cafeteria's put out baskets of matzah beside the rolls, and "Happy Passover" signs next to the "Happy Easter" ones.

Suddenly she's awash in memories of Uncle Morty's voice, snatches of melody she can't quite remember, the sickly taste of Manischewitz wine.

They sit down with their trays and talk about patients for a while.

"So," she says finally. "Why is this night different from all other nights?"

His smile is genuine, and grateful. "I thought you'd never ask."

III. Shavuot

Sometimes the weight of the hospital is almost too much to bear. As though the entire vast building’—all of the people in it, patients and orderlies and nurses and janitors and support staff and pastoral care and the families clustered in waiting rooms and hallways’—were suspended over her head like a mountain.

House is being difficult. She wonders again what would make him happier.

Lisa can't handle the din of the clinic or the endlessly-ringing telephone today. She climbs the D building stairs’—this newest wave of "be heart healthy!" signs is making her feel guilty for taking the elevator so often’—all the way to the top.

The late spring air is a relief. She hasn't smoked a cigarette in years, but there's still something soothing about the roof.

Lisa sits on an upturned milk crate, ignoring the butts at her feet, and waits for revelation.

IV. 9 Av

The day is blistering hot. The parking lot feels soft beneath her feet, and Lisa feels sweaty and sticky by the time she reaches the hospital door.

The air-conditioning offers some respite, but the pile of message slips on her desk makes her heart sink.

Some days bad news rushes through the hospital like fire. Suffering everywhere you look. Two of her department heads are crying on each others' shoulders beside the broken lobby waterfall.

Wilson is hollow-eyed. He pulled another all-nighter and still had to tell the parents their worst fears had come true. Even House seems affected: brittle, snappish, clenching the head of his cane as though everything hurt worse today.

Some days it feels like everyone in the hospital is grieving. All you can do is lower your head, cry in the bathroom, and keep pushing on. Hoping against hope things will improve somehow.

V. Rosh Hashanah

A perfect autumn day: blue sky, leaves beginning to tinge yellow and red around the edges. The kind of day that makes you want to play hooky. Or at least open the windows and roll up your sleeves.

Her voicemail says Carmen gave birth early in the morning, so Lisa picks up flowers at the gift shop. On the counter at the sixth-floor nurses' station she sees the dish of apple wedges, sprinkled with lemon juice, arrayed around a bowl of amber honey.

Her visit with Carmen is brief’—she is tired, of course, and Lisa has work to do’—but she whispers "happy birthday" to the infant sleeping fitfully on his mother's chest. The pang of envy isn't as strong as she had feared it would be.

On her way out, she stops for a slice of apple. It tastes sweet, and for a moment everything is new.

VI. Yom Kippur

She didn't mean to fast. She misses breakfast because she needs to get papers together for the board meeting; the phone rings straight through lunch. Around two she notices the words "Day of Atonement" printed on her desk calendar.

Lisa isn't sure she understands atonement. She has made plenty of mistakes’—many of them, she thinks irritably, relating somehow to Greg House’—but the idea of atoning for them seems implausible, if not delusional.

("He doesn't blame you." She can still hear Stacy's voice, feel the gentle press of her hand. And she still remembers her own response: "It doesn't matter. I blame myself.")

As the light lengthens and fades, she shakes herself from reverie. Time for dinner. Time to stop dwelling, again.

Maybe it's just lightheadedness, but as the hospital doors open to release her into the world she feels lighter, as though something in her has been freed.

VII. Sukkot

Her roof is leaking again. Goddamned old houses. This is why Dan told her to buy modern.

Lisa shoves pots and buckets under the worst drips, and waits for Roman to arrive.

Sometimes it bothers her, how permeable houses are. How fragile. Like bodies’—the boundary between inside and outside is so easily breached.

Once, when she was a kid, she spent a week sleeping in her parents' back yard, under a thatch of branches. She'd used goldenrod for the roof of her little hut’—her mother said it was a weed, but she'd always loved its yellow blooms. As the stalks dried they separated, and she could see stars through the spaces.

One night it had rained and her mother had made her come inside. She'd wished, then, for a hole in their roof so that she could watch the drops fall, and wait for the sky to clear.

VIII. Hanukkah

Lisa digs the menorah out of the box at the back of her bottom file drawer where it's been since Hanukkah ended last year.

She is chipping wax out of the candle-holes with a ballpoint pen when House barges in.

"Don't you knock?"

"And spoil the surprise? Much more fun this way." Greg sits, hands folded, and waits.

"What do you want this time?"

"Actually, I was going to buy you a drink."

She can't help the smile that breaks across her face. "You mean I was right?"

"It was vasculitis," he admits. "What were the odds? But ’—" he gestures. "You're busy. Go ahead."

"It'll take thirty minutes to burn the candles down."

He shrugs, magnanimous. "I can wait."

She should feel self-conscious, doing this in front of him, but she doesn't. Actually it's kind of nice to have company.

She takes a breath and strikes the match.

The End