"I realize that but ."
James Wilson was standing behind his desk, holding the phone with one hand and pulling his hair with the other when House entered his office. House strolled across the room and plopped down in his chair. Wilson took a second in the midst of his conversation to throw him an exasperated look. "No, I'm not questioning the pathology. Or, maybe I am. What? Let me check."
Wilson waved House out of the way. House stood firm. Or sat firm, if one wanted to get technical. Scowling, Wilson tried to reach around him for his calendar.
"No," Wilson said into the phone. He finally snagged his personal planner and smacked House on the shoulder with it before returning to his conversation. "Er lunch. Otherwise my evening is free. No, I'm kind of . Okay, good, see you then."
"Breaking our lunch date?" House asked after Wilson hung up.
"We had a lunch date?" Wilson asked.
"We always have a lunch date. Except when we don't."
"In either case I'm not breaking it." He tossed the planner on his desk and let out a sigh.
"Why so grim, Dr. Wilson?" "Thirty-six year old patient, Taylor Woods," Wilson said as he began to walk around the office. House remained in the chair and swiveled along with Wilson's movements. "Five years ago she was treated for an occipital glioblastoma multiforme."
"Yeah, I thought she was going to be one of the rare success stories for brain cancer."
"It's back," House guessed.
"I don't know. Six weeks ago she presented with mild weakness and blurred vision," Wilson continued. "MRI showed a small lesion in the area of the original tumor."
"It's back," House repeated.
"I was thinking radiation necrosis," Wilson said.
"Kind of late for radiation necrosis."
"Kind of late for recurrent cancer," Wilson said.
House nodded. Given that most people with GBM died within a year, Wilson had a point.
"I warned her that I couldn't be absolutely certain that the cancer hadn't returned, but that I was hopeful." Wilson stopped pacing and sat down on the corner of the desk facing House. "Then a week ago she came into the clinic and she's worse: global weakness, dysphagia, visual field cut. Repeat MRI shows the lesion has doubled in size."
"We both know you can't differentiate between cancer and necrosis on an MRI," House said. "Get a biopsy."
"I did. I admitted her and the neurosurgeon did a biopsy. Path just came back and it shows radiation necrosis."
"A negative biopsy doesn't necessarily rule out cancer."
"I know, but what I've got is necrosis," Wilson said. "And I'm not sure how to treat it."
"I'd advise against further radiation therapy."
House bounced his cane against the floor and watched. Wilson and Stacy were engaged in an intense conversation near the main reception desk and Wilson was obviously trying to escape, smiling but edging away in an unmistakable prelude to flight. Stacy finally gave an exasperated shake of her head and dismissed Wilson with a wave of her hand. Wilson wasted no time in taking advantage of his freedom, striding down the hall with his gaze fixed firmly ahead of him.
"What did Stacy want?"
"Geez!" Startled, Wilson turned on House with an exasperated stare. He took in the small alcove where House was lurking, then he looked up and down the hall.
House hadn't planned to spend his afternoon hiding in this alcove, but he hadn't planned on catching Stacy and Wilson together either. It might've been fun if he'd caught them doing anything exciting or even kinkycertainly would've put him at the top of the gossip food chainbut no, they'd merely been talking. Talking about what was the question.
"Who are you hiding from now?" Wilson asked.
"Because he's so cute when he's suffering separation anxiety." House slapped Wilson on the arm and started walking down the corridor. "So?"
"What did Stacy want?"
"Are you spying on me?" Wilson glanced sideways, trying to read House's face.
"No, I'm spying on Stacy. Now are you going to tell me what she wanted or not?"
"Not," Wilson said.
"Not?" House stopped in the middle of the hall. "What do you mean, not?"
"I mean no, I'm not going to tell you."
"I'm your friend. You have to tell me."
"Stacy's my friend, too." Wilson cut across the hall and around the corner.
"But I'm your bestest friend," House said in his bestest whine as he hurried to catch up.
"Nevertheless it doesn't concern you."
"Chaos theory would beg to differ."
"We're not doing this today," Wilson said as he pushed through the door to his office.
"Having pseudo-philosophical discussions that always end up proving whatever it was you wanted to prove in the first place." Wilson stood at his desk and rifled through a stack of messages. He tossed them back on the desk and grabbed a thick file.
"So you're saying the romance is dead?" House asked.
"I'm saying I have a patient in five minutes and I'm still not telling you what Stacy wanted."
House watched Wilson stuff an extra prescription pad in the pocket of his lab coat and walk right back toward the door.
"You asked me if I was okay with you seeing Stacy," House said before Wilson could escape or House could lose his nerve.
"Yes, and you said you were fine."
"I changed my mind."
"What?" Wilson stopped in the act of opening the door. He let it swing shut again and turned around to look at House.
"I don't want you playing with Stacy anymore."
"I thought we were going to be mature about this," Wilson said.
Wilson looked away and let out a deep sigh. "House, she works here now. I can't just stop talking to her. It would be very awkward."
"Did you or did you not say that you wouldn't see her if it bothered me?"
"Well, yes ."
"Didn't you mean it?" House said.
"Yes, I meant it, but ." Wilson turned back to House, searching his face. "It really bothers you that much?"
"Okay, yes, it bothers me that much," House said, irritated that Wilson had forced him into the admission. He was just grateful that Wilson would assume he knew the reason House was bothered. It save House from either having to lie or explain something he wasn't ready to explain.
"Okay," Wilson said after a moment. "Okay, if it'll make you . You know I can't avoid her completely. She is one of the hospital lawyers."
"Why would you need a lawyer?" House asked. "Other than one of the divorce type."
"I have a patient," Wilson said. He waved the file in the air and left the room.
"How the hell does he do it?" Chase snapped as he entered the conference room.
Foreman looked up, intending to ask what it was House had done this time. Then he realized that Chase was in scrubs which could only mean one of two things: he was trying to bag a surgical groupie or he'd had a close encounter of the bodily fluid kind.
"You have one little argument with the man and suddenly nasty things start happening to you," Chase said as he dropped into a chair.
Cameron glanced sideways, took in his attire, and went back to graphing the monthly reports for the last quarter. The graph was all over the place and Cameron didn't know what that meant other than another migraine for Cuddy.
"Please don't encourage House's delusions of omnipotence," Foreman said. He snapped the newspaper as he turned the page.
"You've got to admit the insufferable bastard has a way of influencing events," Chase said.
"He's not insufferable," Cameron protested. Maybe if she turned the graph sideways .
"Legally, I don't think he qualifies as a bastard," Foreman added.
"He's evil," Chase said, jabbing his finger at Foreman to emphasize his point. "He's so completely, utterly evil that the weight of his evilness actually warps the fabric of space-time around him, trapping us all in his sphere of malign influence."
"Sphere of malign influence?" Cameron dismissed Chase's claim with a roll of her eyes. Foreman began to chuckle, a rich, deep sound.
"I'm serious," Chase insisted to both of them.
"House is like a black hole?" Foreman asked, still chuckling.
"I thought you liked him," Foreman said.
"I admire the sheer audacity of the man. I wouldn't go so far as to say I like him."
"Good, we wouldn't want you to overextend yourself, Dr. Chase."
Chase gritted his teeth and let his head drop as House walked past him. Foreman chuckled again.
"Greg. Greg, wait up."
"If I wait, you'll catch me." House heard the clicking of Stacy's high heels speed up behind him and sighed. Used to be on the days Cuddy didn't track him down he was a free man. Now there was another lioness in the pride and every day was a new adventure in survival. Even worse, this one had been stalking Wilson as well.
"I'll catch you anyway. Eventually." Stacy slowed her pace as she finally drew even with House. "I know where you live."
"Actually, you don't." House kept walking at his surprisingly fast pace. Long legs were good for something, even if one of them didn't work so well anymore. And Stacy had her own handicap. High heels: sexy as hell, but not meant for rapid or prolonged locomotion.
"Actually, I do. It's in your personnel file."
"I thought those files were supposed to be confidential."
"Which only means we can't post your address on the internet where your less than satisfied patients can find it," Stacy said. "Speaking of which ."
"I don't have unsatisfied patients," House said.
"Really. Patients are only unsatisfied if they don't get better. My patients get better ergo they're satisfied." House paused. "The few who don't get better get dead and, well, it's kind of hard to sue from beyond the grave."
"You'd be surprised," Stacy said in a dry tone. She pulled a folder from her briefcase. "But assuming your theory is correct, how do you explain Mr. Ingle?"
"Ingle Ingle . HTLV associated myelopathy," House said. He only vaguely remembered Mr. Ingle's face, but the diagnosisthat had been fun. He gave Stacy a puzzled look. "He left here in better shape than when he arrived."
"No one's disputing that."
"Good." House gave her a smug grin. "I must say I thoroughly enjoy these random but entirely pointless conversations of ours."
"He's suing me?" House asked. Stacy gave House the same smug smile he'd just given her. "Ungrateful bastard."
"Maybe he just doesn't care for your 'pin the tail on the donkey' approach to medicine," Stacy said. She shoved the file into his free hand.
"What am I supposed to do with this?"
"I want you to review the record and give a reasonable explanation for what you did to this man. Any reasonable explanation."
"Fine," House said. He paused at the door to the conference room. "But while we're making unreasonable demands herestop bothering Wilson."
"Leave him alone."
"Why?" Stacy asked.
"Because I said so," House said as if that wasn't self-evident. Truly, he didn't understand the confusion.
"You don't get to make the rules, Greg," Stacy said as she followed him into the room. Foreman looked up from the journal he was perusing, then immediately raised the journal as if to shield himself.
"Sure I do."
"Since I decided my rules were better than anyone else's." House left the 'duh' as implied.
"Let me get this straight: you don't want me to talk to Wilson, so I'm just supposed to stop talking to Wilson?"
"I knew you'd see it my way."
Stacy laughed in disbelief. "You are one arrogant SOB."
"Pot," House said to Foreman. He gestured toward Stacy. "Meet kettle."
"What?" Foreman asked.
"Would you excuse us?" Stacy asked Foreman.
"Gladly." Foreman closed the journal as he stood up.
"Sit your ass down," House said, pointing emphatically at Foreman. Foreman looked very carefully from House to Stacy, then slowly settled back in his chair. House gave Stacy a pointed look. "Unless you have something further of a professional nature, we're done."
"You wish," Stacy said. She gave Foreman a polite nod then turned on her sexy, impractical high heel and exited the room.
"Here," House said. He tossed Mr. Ingle's file on the table in front of Foreman.
"Not sure." House crossed to the sink and grabbed his mug. He peered into it and decided there probably wasn't anything breeding in there his system couldn't handle. He filled it from a fresh pot of coffee and headed for his office.
"House, what do you want me to do with this?"
"Read it. Pull Mr. Ingle's record. Make a list of everything we did and why we did it." House stopped, holding the door open with his shoulder. "Oh, and talk to Wilson about this radiation necrosis patient he has."
"Anything else, Massa?"
"Nope, that's all," House said.
"What about Cameron and Chase?" Foreman asked.
"What about them?"
"Shouldn't one of them be doing some of this work?"
"You were the primary on Ingle," House explained. "Wilson's patient is a neurological case, and hey, guess what? You're a neurologist."
"Okay, fine," Foreman said in a grudging tone. "But I'd still like to know what Chase and Cameron are doing."
"Oh, I hope they're in the third floor supply closet playing doctor."
"You're a sad man," Foreman said as he opened the file.
"No, just an incredibly frustrated one since Cuddy blocked all my porn sites."
"Have you considered amputation?"
House stopped rubbing his thigh and looked up from the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Yes, it was borderline bad taste to be looking at pictures of nearly naked women while at work and yes, it made Cuddy grit her teeth and Cameron roll her eyes. That was pretty much the point. Wilson was seated at his desk, reviewing labs on the computer. House knew he was reviewing labs because the computer screen was reflected in his glasses and House could see rows of tiny numbers rather than naked people.
"When did you get glasses?" House asked.
"I don't remember. Couple months ago, I guess." Wilson scrolled to the next screen. "I don't have to wear them all the time. Computer eyestrain or something."
"You didn't tell me you needed glasses."
"I didn't tell you the result of my last prostate exam either." Wilson looked at House. "And you didn't answer my question."
"If I didn't let them cut it off before, what makes you think I'd even entertain the idea now?"
"It's a perfectly reasonable option in cases of intractable pain."
"Obviously we have different definitions of the word reasonable."
"You didn't know before." Wilson laid his pen on the desk and leaned back in his chair. "You thought you could tough it out. If it had been a short term process, I'm sure you would have. But you had no idea what it was going to mean to live with this for the rest of your life."
"Now I do, and I'm still not letting anyone cut my leg off."
"You have to do something."
"I am doing something." House pulled his ever present bottle of pills from his coat pocket and rattled it.
"We've been through this before," House warned.
"If it were just a question of addiction you're right. We've been through this and I yield to your more intimate knowledge of the subject. But it's not just the addiction, it's all the secondary effects of the addiction," Wilson said. "And the drinking on top of it. In case you've forgotten, they don't give liver transplants to junkies."
"They do if you're a famous junkie."
"Which still leaves you out," Wilson pointed out.
"Not necessarily. I figure I've got a few years in which to take a shot at fame. Or infamy," House said. "You know, before the drugs kill me."
Wilson stared at House for a moment. Then he rubbed his eyes, resettled his glasses, and turned back to the computer.
"You're no fun anymore," House complained. Man couldn't live by goading alone. To get the full effect the designated goadee had to react.
"Sorry if the prospect of your imminent demise fails to engage my sense of humor." Wilson punched in a new patient number, tight-lipped and tense.
"My demise is no more imminent than anyone else's," House said.
"Given your unique ability to antagonize everyone you know, I doubt that." Wilson stared at the new report for a minute, then slumped back in his chair. "Shit."
"Is that general shit or a specific shit?" House asked, assuming that, either way, the shit was his.
"Taylor, the radiation necrosis patient."
"Still no luck?"
"Not only are we not making her better, we can't even stop her from getting worse."
"That happens sometimes."
"It shouldn't be happening this time."
"Your clinic schedule for next month."
House reluctantly reached up and grasped the paper Cuddy was holding in front of his face. He had to; it was blocking his view of the box scores. "
I'm impressed," House said. He leaned over and stuck the page under his desk lamp. "Personal delivery and everything."
"Yes, well, last month I emailed it and you claimed it had been intercepted by demons from the fifth dimension." Cuddy gave him a knowing look. "The month before that you said the dog ate it even though you don't own a dog."
"I lied. It was Wilson's dog."
"Wilson doesn't have a dog either."
"Cameron has fish," House said. He gave Cuddy his most winsome smile.
"And I have a cat. Neither has anything to do with your clinic schedule."
"In other words, you're not buying my boyishly charming attempts at subterfuge," House said. He was only mildly disappointed in this latest failure. Cuddy, alas, knew him too well by now.
"Why would I?"
"Seems to work for Wilson," House observed.
"Occasionally, but then Dr. Wilson is boyishly charming." Cuddy stared at House long enough that he began to worry. He never liked having Cuddy so focused on him. It generally meant bad things for House.
"How's it going with Stacy?"
"She hasn't been here three months and already I'm being sued," House said.
"Are you saying there's a correlation?"
"I'm merely stating the facts," House said with a wave of his hand. "I leave it to you to draw the obvious conclusions."
"I asked you if there was going to be a problem," Cuddy said.
"You know the history."
"Yes, of course, that's why I asked before I offered her the job," Cuddy said.
"However," House said, raising a hand to silence her. "I am an adult all rumors to the contrary. As long as it stays on a strictly professional level we'll be fine."
"That's all I'm asking," Cuddy said.
"No, you're also asking me to work an unreasonable number of hours in the clinic, teach clueless twenty-somethings how to play doctor, balance the budget and be nice to patients," House said.
"The horror of it all," Cuddy said without the slightest sign of sympathy.
Days passed before House had an opportunity to harass Wilson again, which was something close to forever in House-years. But the fact that House now had two predatory women in high heels dogging his own heels meant he had very little time to play. He was starting to get seriously annoyed. House thought his only chance might be to try and turn Stacy and Cuddy on each other. Not an easy propositionwomen tended to bond over things like glass ceilings and House huntingbut not impossible.
House finally found his opportunity at the clinic reception desk. Wilson was just finishing his allotted hours; House was due to begin his. The situation called for a diversion, and House had just the diversion in mind.
"Stacy told me about the favor she was asking you to do."
Wilson straightened and turned his head just enough so that he could look directly at House. House nodded and did his best to look supportive and sympathetic. Wilson handed a stack of charts across the desk to the clerk and grabbed a free newspaper from the pile sitting on the end of the counter.
"Did you hear me?" House asked.
"I heard." Wilson pulled the classified section out of the paper and began to read. "And no, she didn't."
"Dr. House, you have a headache in Exam 2."
"I bet I do," House said, taking the record from the nurse. More importantly, he had a headache right here with Wilson. "She did so tell me."
"If she had, you wouldn't be standing there acting like that."
"Acting like what?"
"I'm not nosey."
"You're an incorrigible busybody," Wilson said with a laugh.
"Maybe." House played with his cane and tried to be patient, but Wilson kept reading the newspaper. "Why won't you tell me?"
"I'm not doing it so what does it matter?"
"Because she knows something about you that I don't." House saw Wilson tense, just for a second, and knew he was on to something. "She does, doesn't she?"
"Obviously she knows what the favor was."
"No, it's more than that," House said, confident in his assessment. "You told her something."
"I didn't tell her anything. She guessed." Wilson eyed House warily. "You didn't."
Wilson had unintentionally presented House with a challenge, a puzzle. He really should've known better than that. House followed Wilson around the reception desk when he tried to flee. He noticed that Exam 1 was empty and grabbed Wilson by the elbow, propelling him toward the empty room.
"All rightshe asked me to speak to someone," Wilson said. He turned on House with an annoyed look as soon as they were ensconced in the room. "Happy now?"
"Someone she knows."
"She thought I could help him," Wilson said. "Counsel him, you could say."
"About specializing in oncology?"
"Yes," Wilson said, just a little too eagerly.
"No. If it were that simple you wouldn't have been working so hard to keep it a secret," House said. Wilson smacked himself in the forehead with an exasperated grunt.
"It's personal," Wilson said.
"So what? For god's sake, I know how often you had sex with your first wife."
"Yes, but not how often I had sex with her lawyer," Wilson snapped back. His expression immediately froze. House stood up a little straighter and Wilson's eyes started looking for a place to focus that wasn't House.
"Her lawyer was a guy," House said.
"Yes, thank you, I'd noticed that." Wilson sank into a chair and dropped his head into his hands. House leaned against the exam table and took a moment to consider the implications.
"Well," he said. "That explains a lot."
"Really?" Wilson's sarcasm was muffled by his hands.
"I always wondered how you got such a sweet deal on that first divorce. Kind of an ethical problem there for the lawyer, but heythe wife tried to screw you so you screwed the lawyer. Nice strategy."
House shook his head, still trying regain his mental balance. Wilson wasn't supposed to be gay. Wilson was supposed to be the eligible and slightly pitiable divorcé except during those times he was actually married and then he was just pitiful.
"Can't believe I never noticed," House said.
"Maybe you didn't want to notice."
"Ooh, deep," House mocked. "Can we just stick to the part about you screwing guys?"
"Let's not." Wilson finally emerged from the protection of his hands and pushed up out of the chair.
"Does Julie ?"
"Of course Julie doesn't know," Wilson said sharply. He began to pace. "I don't . It's not like I promised to love, honor, and jump the first hot guy I see."
"Too bad. Would've made the ceremony a helluva lot more interesting," House said.
"Then again, what does it matter," Wilson said. He glanced at House. "She filed."
"Ouch," House said. And he meant it.
"Yeah." Wilson stopped moving and all the nervous energy drained from his body in one long exhalation.
"Come on." House planted his cane and pulled himself up. "We need a drink."
"I I can't," Wilson said. He waved a weary hand toward the door. "I've been busy with stuff, and I'm way behind on my current caseload."
"It'll still be here in the morning."
"That's what I'm trying to avoid," Wilson said.
"You have at least one patient circling the drain, your wife filed for divorce and you just outed yourself to your best friend," House said. "You need a drink. Hell, you probably need two drinks."
"A drink is the last thing I need."
"Okay, but I need a drink and it would be anti-social of me to drink alone so ." House tilted his head toward the door, in case Wilson needed more of a hint.
"Since when have you worried about appearing anti-social?"
"Never. So are we going?"
"I have rounds. You have clinic," Wilson said. He reached for the door. "We'll continue this later. Orpreferablynot."
"Well, this is extremely adult of us," House said.
He glanced around the restaurant. The clientele consisted mostly of couples with a few businessmen scattered around, singly or in small groups. The lighting was low, probably to prevent anyone from actually seeing the prices on the menu, and piano music tinkled softly in the background.
"You're right," Stacy said. "I'm thinking someone should check for pods under your bed."
"Yes, very mature," House added. Stacy sipped at her wine and smiled. "I thought I made it clear to Cuddy that this was to be a purely professional relationship."
"You could've declined my invitation," Stacy said. She cocked her head, intrigued. "In fact, why didn't you?"
"Curiosity," House admitted.
"Why you'd extend an invitation."
"I don't know," Stacy said with a small laugh. "I guess I wanted to see if it were possible for us to be adults."
"I would've thought the answer to that was obvious."
"Yeah, well, it's been a few years. I took a chance that you'd grown up."
"And just got over that little incident where you carved up my leg?" House asked.
"I saved your life," Stacy said.
"You took away my choice."
"There was no choice, Greg. Even as stubborn and miserable as you are, you would never choose to die."
"I should've been allowed to choose how I would live."
"Okay." Stacy rubbed her temples with her fingertips. "Can we call a truce of some kind on that issue? Because we are never going to agree."
"And it's not like we get do-overs," House said. He played with his silverware for a moment. Talking to Stacy was like picking at a scab; it wasn't healthy but he took a perverse delight in doing it. "Fine. We'll never mention it again."
"How long do you think that'll last?" Stacy asked with a rueful twist of her lips.
"Until one of us gets ticked off or an hourwhichever comes first," House said. He saluted her with his water glass and drank. Yes, he was making the extreme sacrifice and sticking to water. House didn't want Stacy to think she could liquor him up and have her way with him. He kind of needed his other leg.
"Dr. Cameron?" House asked, puzzled. "She looked well enough the last time I saw her."
"Why are you so afraid of her?" Stacy asked.
"I'm not afraid of her. I'm bad for her. At least in a romantic sense," House said. "Possibly in a professional sense, too, but I admire her persistence in sticking it out."
"Right, and why do you think she's stuck with it?"
"Forget Cameron," House said irritably. "What about Wilson?"
"What about him?" It was Stacy's turn to be confused.
"Who's the guy you wanted him to talk to?"
"He told you?" Stacy's expression showed only mild surprise. She eyed House speculatively. "He told you everything?"
"Yes." House grimaced, disgruntled by his own lack of insight. "I should've known. Three divorces at his agedifferential diagnosis is he's a total bastard or gay. Wilson's not a total bastard."
"No, he's not."
"How'd you figure it out?" House asked. He hated admitting in any way, shape or form that he'd been a little less on the ball than Stacy, but he had to know how a more casual friend had figured out what House had not.
"I'd like to claim it was the result of acute observation and dispassionate logic." Stacy took another sip of her wine and gave House a wry smile. "I'd be lying, though. It was just one of those moments where you see something you've seen a hundred times before but this one time something clicks."
"Saw something?" House prompted.
"Not 'saw' as in witnessed. Saw as in seeing something in James I'd never noticed before. I'm not sure I even know exactly what triggered the realization." Stacy studied House. "Does it bother you?"
"That you figured it out first? A little. Obviously I've grown complacent after last year's spectacular win in the 'Bestest Friend' sweepstakes."
House knew without a doubt, or at least much of one, that Stacy's ability to figure it out first did not mean she was closer to Wilson than House. Stacy was simply more objective, not a better friend. After all, Wilson had never given up his job for her, had he? Except that only proved that Wilson was House's best friend. It said nothing about the reverse.
Maybe he had grown complacent.
"I was referring to the fact that he's gay," Stacy said, interrupting House's musings.
"Why would that bother me?" House asked. Yes, of course it bothered him. Not necessarily in a negative way, but it changed things, because if Wilson was gay and House was not going to think about that.
"I don't know. That's why I asked," Stacy said. "You know, by admitting it, it's possible he may finally have a chance to develop a stable relationship now."
"If it means no more Mrs. Wilsons keeping him on a short leash, good," House said.
Not that any of the Mrs. Wilsons had ever succeeded in keeping the leash short for very long. There always came a point when Wilson spent more of his free time with House than with the wife du jour. And when the wife inevitably complained, Wilson simply pointed out that there were guy things that didn't interest them, not like they interested House. Though apparently Wilson was interested in some guy things House had never suspected.
"Greg," Stacy sighed. "You can't keep clinging to him."
"Excuse me?" House blurted. That had to be the most ridiculous accusation ever leveled at him. And that was saying something. "When have I ever clung to anyone? I didn't even have a teddy bear when I was a kid."
"You depend on him. A lot," Stacy said, unmoved by House's protestations. "He can't go on being your faithful sidekick."
"Why do you assume that being happy and being my friend are two mutually exclusive states of existence?" House asked.
"Experience," Stacy said. House scowled and she made a vaguely apologetic shrug. "Okay, that was a low blow. But when it comes to James I think there may be a bit of truth to it."
"Oh, please," House scoffed. "The truth is that some days I'm the only good thing Wilson has going. He even said so himself."
"I'm sure he did. That's kind of my point, Greg. You're all he has and he's all you have. It's not healthy."
"You knownot everyone needs or wants to be psychoanalyzed." House glared at her. "And don't think you're being subtle. You didn't think talking would help the kid; you thought talking would help Wilson."
"I merely thought a small kick in the ass might help," Stacy said. "After all, he's not as entrenched in his self-destructive behaviors as you are."
"Which only proves you don't know him as well as you think."
"You know, you could go sleep in your office," House suggested.
"Then people would know where to find me," Wilson mumbled. His head was resting on his arms, which were folded on House's desk. House didn't believe for a minute that Wilson's groggy presence in his office supported Stacy's assertions about their relationship. Other than the fact that no one in their right mind would consider House's office a sanctuary. Okay, so maybe they were a little co-dependent, but was that such a crime?
"Hate to break it to you, but they know to look for you here, too," House said.
"Yeah, but you're too scary. No one would dare."
"I'm not that scary," House protested mildly.
"Big bad scary ogre-man," Wilson said. "Known to devour the weak and defenseless."
"Geez, snack on one toddler and you're labeled for life."
House glanced over at the conference room. Foreman had just arrived and he went straight for the coffee maker. House banged his cane against the desk, making Wilson jump.
"Boxers or briefs?"
Wilson turned his head just far enough so that he could see Foreman puttering around the conference room. "Hmm briefs."
"Boxers," House disagreed. "And Chase?"
"Definitely briefs," Wilson said. House nodded and watched as Chase, followed closely by Cameron, joined Foreman in the conference room.
"Cameron: boxers or briefs?"
Wilson raised his head enough so that he could rest his chin on his arms. "You're kidding."
"No. Boxers or briefs?" House persisted. Wilson made a rude noise and buried his face in his arms again. "Now you're just being Mr. Grumpy Pants."
"And you're being Mr. Whiny Pants and when did we revert to kindergarten?"
"That's it, mister. No more staying up late to watch the big peoples' shows on TV," House said. Wilson merely made another rude noise.
"House?" Foreman leaned in through the door to House's office.
"I have a symposium on Alzheimers to attend at nine-thirty," Foreman announced. "So if you two can fight past the hangovers, I'd really like to get morning rounds started."
"Wilson's not hung over," House said. He glanced at the top of Wilson's head. "You're not hung over, are you?"
"No," was Wilson's muffled reply.
"See," House said. He smirked at Foreman. "I, on the other hand, had quite the evening."
"Really?" Foreman said in a tone that suggested he couldn't care less.
"There was this blonde, with legs up to here and boobs out to there and ."
"And a pull-string in her back so you could make her talk?" Foreman asked. Wilson snorted in amusement. Foreman's expression grew smug. "So can we start rounds?"
"Sure," House said, glaring at the top of Wilson's head. "Just as soon as you scrape Wilson off my desk."
"I'm not bothering anyone," Wilson protested.
"You're drooling on my blotter."
"Fine," Wilson mumbled. He tripped over his own feet getting out of the chair, but finally straightened up and found his way to the door.
"Hey, don't go away mad," House called after him.
"Just go away." Wilson gave a sloppy wave of his hand and pushed into the corridor. House shoved his unfinished paperwork aside and got to his feet.
"For the recordboxers," Foreman said. He held the door open for House as they both walked into the conference room.
"Ha! I knew it."
"Knew what?" Chase asked.
"Boxers or briefs," Foreman explained. He took a seat next to Cameron and House planted himself at the head of the table. All three of his staff had Styrofoam containers of breakfast on the table. House only had his coffee. Surely that defied the laws of nature? Or, at the very least, the terms of Cameron's contract.
"Wilson's definitely briefs," Chase said as he reached for a napkin.
"How would you know?" Cameron asked.
"Men's locker room," Chase said. Cameron looked at him with mischievous smile. Foreman smirked to himself.
"And just how much time do you spend in the men's locker room, Dr. Chase?" House asked.
"You're boxers," Chase said, staring at House defiantly. "Wrong."
"Briefs?" Chase asked, sounding less confident.
"What else is there?" Cameron asked.
"Let's just say that nothing comes between me and my Calvin Kleins."
"Ugh." Chase pushed back from the table. "That's an image I didn't need with breakfast."
This story was added on 27 OCT 2005