"Unless you're planning to show me pictures from your lunch date the other day, I've got more important things to do."
"Sit down and shut up." Cuddy continued working on her files. House considered protesting, but something about her exceptionally harassed appearance told him that would be a bad idea. After a moment, she set aside her file, took off her reading glasses and looked across the desk at him.
"It's time for our monthly chat," Cuddy said. "Why I have to have a monthly chat with you is a whole other ball of wax which, frankly, I no longer have any desire to understand."
"Ignorance is bliss?" House suggested.
"Ignorance is sanity," Cuddy replied. She stared at him. "Stop terrorizing the clinic."
"You were. You made a patient cry." Cuddy planted both hands on the desk top and leaned toward him. "You made a nurse cry."
"Brenda's always been overly sensitive."
"Brenda's not sensitive, she's human."
"You could ban me from the clinic," House suggested.
"Not going to happen so stop taking your pain out on everyone else."
"It's not pain," House said. He rolled his cane between his palms. "Okay, some of it's pain but it's more than that. My life sucks."
"Everyone's life sucks. Why should yours be any different?"
"Cynical much?" House said in surprise.
"Let's face itgenerally speaking, when your life sucks it's because you made it suck," Cuddy said. She slumped back in her chair with a weary sigh.
"That's just it," House said. "This time it's not my fault."
"According to who?"
"I didn't cause the increased pain in my leg. Well, actually I did but that's only because I'm letting Larson manage my pain meds and look where that's gotten me. And I sure as hell didn't make Wilson flirt." House's voice trailed off on the last word because, although there were many things he would tell Cuddy, divulging problems in his love life wasn't high on the list.
"Wilson flirting?" Cuddy infused the words with more than enough mockery. Slapping a hand to her cheek and rolling her eyes was overkill in House's opinion. "For god's sake, House, you knew Wilson was a flirt."
Of course he knew it. Everyone knew Wilson was a flirt. The point was he'd been trying to forget that fact because if he ignored it maybe it wouldn't be true any more. Duh.
"Sure, but it didn't affect me before."
"How could I forgetit's all about you," Cuddy muttered.
"Have you ever considered becoming a doctor?" House mocked. "With a bedside manner like that, you're a natural."
"What do you want from me?" Cuddy asked, throwing her hands up. "Want me to tell you Wilson won't cheat? Can't do that. Want me to pat your head and make 'poor little Greg' noises? Won't do that. What I will do is tell you to stop being such a drama queen, go do your job, then go home and do Wilson."
"Pithy," House said. And not a bad plan actually.
"Stop looking for trouble," Cuddy said. "Yes, Wilson's a flirt. So what? You know it doesn't mean anything most of the time."
"Most of the time." House leaned forward, resting his forearms on his thighs. If it were just about the sex he wouldn't care much. He was a man of reason, of logic, and reason told him that sex and love were not inevitably entwined. Hell, he didn't need reason to tell him that. Experience told him that. He certainly hadn't loved his hookers no matter how good they were.
It was only sex and some nights, between the pain and the pills, House didn't quite have what it took. If Wilson satisfied an itch somewhere else once in a while, he wouldn't begrudge him the release. But it was never just sex for Wilson. He never slept with someone unless he cared about that someone. It was the caring that worried House.
"He's not going anywhere, House," Cuddy said. "He cares about you."
House nodded. He knew that, but.... "Jimmy's got a big heart. He can care about more than one person at a time."
House bit back a groan as he twisted to see the bedside table. The tumbler of scotch was empty and he couldn't remember how many vicodin he'd taken. Between this pain management crap and Wilson's hovering, he'd gotten out of practice at self-medicating. His thigh twinged again: clearly a sign from god that he hadn't had enough vicodin.
He rolled slightly and reached for the bottle. His fingertips just grazed the lid. The bottle tilted and fell on its side, rolled across the surface and fell to the floor. Great. Just great. Now he'd have to take the heating pad off his leg, get up....
"What the hell are you doing?"
"Fuck," House muttered as he dropped back against the pillow. Wilson was standing in the doorway, staring at him as if he'd lost his mind. "I thought you had a late meeting."
"I do." Wilson pulled his suit coat off and tossed it over a chair. He leaned over and picked up the vicodin bottle and stuffed it in his pocket, well out of House's reach. "The board meeting is at seven. I thought I'd come home and grab a bite to eat first. And you still haven't answered my question."
"My leg hurts."
"Well, that explains the heating pad, maybe even the pills, but not the pills and booze." Wilson shook his head angrily, then turned and stalked into the bathroom, unbuttoning his cuffs and rolling up his sleeves as he went.
"Heating pad wasn't enough," House called after him. "Neither was the neurontin or any of that other crap Larson gave me."
He closed his eyes and waited. Pissy Wilson was as predictable as a clock: five, four, three, two....
"So naturally you went straight to mixing narcotics and alcohol," Wilson said, reentering the bedroom right on cue. "Aside from the sheer stupidity of that, you'll never get the new drug regimen to work if you keep undermining it. Scoot over and lose the pants."
House opened one eye at the last command. "So not in the mood."
"News flash: neither am I." Wilson showed him the massage oil in his hand. "Now lose them."
House sighed, then tossed the heating pad aside. He shifted over a few inches before tackling the task of removing his jeans. Wilson sat on the edge of the bed and rubbed some oil between his hands.
"You're an idiot," Wilson said as he began kneading House's thigh with a firm, even strokes.
"I'm in pain," House said through clenched teeth. No matter how careful Wilson was the pressure was always painful at first. Unbearable at times, but eventually the massage would help. Eventually.
"Fine. You're an idiot in pain," Wilson said. He continued muttering a scathing indictment of House's psychological intelligence under his breath. House let the words rumble around the room as his leg began to relax under Wilson's hands. He felt himself begin to drift off as the pain was partially replaced by a soothing warmth.
"How many did you take?"
"Huh?" House opened his eyes again. Wilson was staring at him, his mouth a thin line. "Just a couple. Couple extra."
"And the booze?"
"Maybe this much," House said, holding his fingers apart to indicate the amount. It was a rough estimate, mainly because House couldn't quite get his fingers to agree on an appropriate distance. Wilson shook his head slowly as he wiped the oil from his hands on House's discarded jeans. He took the bottle of pills from his pocket as he stood up.
"I'm putting these in the kitchen before I go," Wilson told him. "That way you'll have to work for them if you want them."
"Where you going?"
"I still have a board meeting to attend," Wilson said. He unrolled his sleeves and buttoned the cuffs, trying to pull the wrinkles out of the fabric. "And since you haven't actually killed yourself this time ."
"Hey, I know my limits."
"You don't know the meaning of the word," Wilson said. He grabbed his suit coat, then turned abruptly and returned to the bed. He leaned over and dropped a quick kiss on House's forehead. His lips still brushing against his skin, he said, "Don't do anything stupid while I'm gone."
"Me? Stupid?" House said. His eyelids were drooping shut again, lulled by the drugs, booze, and massage, but he was awake enough to hear Wilson's exasperated sigh. Which was about the last thing he remembered hearing.
"Where the hell is House?" Foreman asked for about the tenth time.
"Wherever he wants to be," Chase said. He pulled the pen from his mouth and reached for a bagel. House had recently suggested that Chase get some professional help for his oral fixation. Either that or look into a career in the adult entertainment industry. Chase took that as proof that getting laid on a regular basis had not mellowed House in the least.
"Isn't that Dr. Wilson?"
Chase followed Cameron's gaze. Wilson was wandering down the hall, frowning at the open chart in his hands.
"If Wilson's here, then why isn't House here?" Foreman asked.
"Good question." Chase waited until Wilson was even with the conference room and then shouted his name. Startled, Wilson looked around. Chase could understand the confusion. Normally House was the only one who hollered Wilson's name through doors, windows, even walls. Chase waved Wilson in when he finally caught his eye.
"Yes?" Wilson asked as he leaned in the door.
"Where's House?" Chase asked.
"Ah...." Wilson glanced around the room and toward House's office. "He's not here yet?"
"No, and he hasn't called," Cameron said. "Didn't you two ride in together?"
"No, not today." Wilson looked uneasy. "I...had to be here early."
"Well, if you see him, will you tell him we need to come up with a game plan for our patient?" Foreman said.
"Yeah, I'll do that," Wilson said vaguely. He let the door close and walked off in the direction of his office.
"That was weird," Cameron said. Her eyes lingered on the door despite the fact that Wilson was already out of view.
"Trouble in paradise," Foreman predicted.
"If you can call sleeping with House paradise," Chase said with a snort. Clearly he didn't.
"Doesn't mean anything," Cameron said with a scathing look for both her colleagues. "Maybe House's leg is bothering him. Maybe Wilson had an early meeting. They're not joined at the hip after all."
"Not at the hip, no," Chase agreed. Annoyed by Chase's childish amusement, Cameron reached over and smacked him on the arm. "Hey!"
"Grow up," Cameron muttered.
"Fifty bucks says House got too bitchy for even Wilson to tolerate," Foreman said.
"No," Chase said thoughtfully. "Wilson looked concerned, not angry. My guess is Wilson did something to piss House off, but he doesn't realize it."
"It's House's fault," Foreman said confidently. He held out his hand. Chase shook it, sealing the bet. "Cameron?"
"Get real." Cameron closed the file because, honestly, there wasn't anything left to do until House showed up. "House would have to kill someone before Wilson would leave him. And Wilson would have to...."
"Have to what?" Chase asked when Cameron's voice trailed off.
"Oh, you don't think Wilson cheated on him?" Cameron asked. Her eyes were wide as she sought reassurance. Chase and Foreman immediately exchanged looks of terrified glee.
"Told youWilson's fault," Chase said. He emphasized his point by shaking his chewed up pen at Foreman. Then he shoved the pen in the pocket of his lab coat and began grabbing his stuff.
"Where are you going?" Foreman asked.
"You really going to stick around until House shows up?" Chase asked. Foreman stared at him for a second, then slapped his magazine closed.
"I'm not afraid of him," Foreman insisted, but he too shoved his papers into a pile and grabbed his lab coat.
"You coming, Cameron?" Chase asked as he opened the door.
"No, I'm not," she said with all the disdain she could muster. "I'm going to stay here and do my job. And when House comes in, I'm going to talk to him."
"Really? Any last instructions about what we should do with your remains?" Chase asked. Behind him, Foreman grinned.
"Bite me," Cameron muttered.
"Wow, you finally mastered that time thing. Congratulations." House shoved his backpack under his desk and shuffled quickly through the accumulated papers in his inbox.
"Is there a problem?" Cameron asked.
House paused and looked up at her. A problem? Well, his leg still hurt like a bitch and spending the night in a drugged stupor hadn't exactly been restful. Not to mention the fact that he had no idea where Wilson was.
"I hear world hunger is kind of bad, especially if you're one of the hungry. All the socially active singers are whining about it. Got a beat but you can't dance to it. Well, I can't dance to it. You probably could."
"I meant are you and Wilson having trouble."
House simply stared for a moment. "Not that it's any of your business, but why would you think we were?"
"Well, he was here hours ago," Cameron said. She finally took the seat across from House. "I thought maybe...."
House sighed. His recollection of the previous evening was a bit hazy. He did remember waking up after midnight and nary a Wilson to be seen. He figured one of them was due to make an apology, and he wasn't entirely convinced it should be him. Now all he had to do is convince Wilson of the same thing.
"No problems," House said. None that couldn't be managed. None that he had any desire to discuss with Cameron. "Where are Ebony and Ivory?"
"Hiding in the surgery lounge."
"Oncology lounge has better TV," House said. "And why are they hiding? Cuddy catch them breaking into her secret stash of sex tapes?"
"They didn't want to be around if you and Wilson had been fighting."
"Huh." House immediately began brainstorming. There had to be an infinite number of ways to use this against Foreman and Chase.
"Don't you start," Cameron said, her tone belligerent. "I'm not putting up with the three of you and your petty little mind fucks."
House gaped. Cameron never swore, at least not in his presence. She must really be fed up with them. Either that or it was her time of the month. Of course, if it was her time of the month the last thing he wanted to do was point out that it was her time of the month. Not when he was the only male in castrating distance. "So do we have a new patient yet?"
"We haven't finished with the old one," Cameron said.
"Yes, we have. Tell her to lay off the drugs and discharge her."
"I don't think it's drugs," Cameron said.
"Doesn't matter at this point," House said. "She's better. Happens sometimes even when we don't know why. Now discharge her and find someone new. Someone we can actually help."
"You didn't come home last night," House said as he strolled up to the nurse's station. The unit clerk's eyes went wide when she looked away from Wilson to see House glaring at her over Wilson's shoulder.
"Thanks, I'll finish these later," Wilson told the clerk as he handed over several pathology reports. He turned, stared at House, then began to walk away.
"Maybe you didn't hear my question," House said as he followed.
"I wasn't aware you'd asked a question."
"Technically you're right, but the question was implied," House said as he fell in at Wilson's side. "Where were you?"
"Board meeting ran late."
"Until nine o'clock this morning?" House asked, incredulous.
"It ran late and then I...ended up on the couch in my office."
"Good to see you haven't changed," House said sarcastically. "Still running away when things get sticky."
"I wasn't running away," Wilson said tersely.
"If I compared notes with your ex-wives, do you think they'd agree?"
"I was angry and I...don't like confrontation," Wilson said. He stepped to the side of the corridor and lowered his voice. "Especially not with someone who's stoned to the point of unconsciousness."
"Why not? Sounds like an easy win for you."
"Winning isn't the point, House." Wilson ran a hand through his hair in frustration. "Forget it. You're going to do what you want to do no matter what I say."
"I think they screwed something up during the angio," House said.
"What?" Wilson frowned, caught off guard by the sudden change in topic. "No, I was there during the whole procedure. I reviewed the films. Nothing got screwed up."
"Well, something's making my leg hurt worse than usual," House insisted.
"Could be breakthrough pain," Wilson said. "God knows you've completely screwed your drug regimen."
"This is not breakthrough pain." House knew breakthrough pain intimately. This wasn't it.
"Could be reperfusion syndrome," Wilson said thoughtfully. "Is there any swelling? Any...?"
"It's not that either," House insisted. It was too late for reperfusion syndrome. And screw Larson and his alleged 'pain management.' House had taken enough vicodin, more than enough, that he shouldn't be in this much pain.
"What?" House snapped. He turned his head to see Kent staring at him with wide eyes. The nurse edged closer to Wilson, never taking his eyes from House.
"Dr. Wilson, your cell phone."
Wilson stared at the phone Kent was holding out, his expression blank. Then he grabbed the phone with a mumbled thanks. Kent stayed close, apparently hoping for more. House raised his cane in an offer to give him more. The puppy got the hint and backed away.
Wilson's pager went off and he walked away even as House was intimidating the nurse into submission.
"Hey!" House called when he realized Wilson was making a get-away. "You can't fake a page to get out of a conversation."
"Unlike you, I don't fake pages," Wilson called over his shoulder. "You'll have to find someone else to harass for a while."
"I thought I told you to discharge her," House said as he entered Karen Porter's room for the first time since her admission. Alarms were beeping and people were racing around the room, clearly not involved in discharging the patient.
"I didn't think she was ready," Foreman said. "Looks like I was right."
"Could you save the pissing contest for later?" Chase snapped. He was busy trying to put in a central line while Cameron placed an oxygen mask over the patient's face. "She's having a heart attack. We've got to start tPA."
"No," House said.
"No?" Cameron looked at him in disbelief.
"You'll just cause a brain hemorrhage with tPA," House said.
"Maybe," Chase said. "But tPA is the only way we'll stop her from completing this MI."
"She's not infarcting," House said. He insinuated himself between Cameron and the monitors so he could study the readings more closely. "She's dissecting."
"Dissecting?" Chase asked.
"Cocaine and aortic dissection," House sniped. "Try reading a medical journal once in a while."
"She's been in the hospital for days," Cameron said. "Even if she was using, she hasn't had access to drugs for almost a week. She wouldn't be having a dissection now."
"Someone's smuggling it in to her in the hospital." House turned back to look at Chase. "And don't tell me you've never caught a patient shooting, snorting or smoking before."
"Found one guy actually free-basing in his room once," Chase admitted.
"It's cocaine," House said. He pointed at Chase and Foreman. "Get a tox screen and a stat chest CT to verify the dissection. Cameron wait here."
House came to an abrupt halt when he reached the waiting room. He had no idea what Karen Porter's husband looked like. He figured he could eliminate all the females, but still....
"Porter," House called because that was the simplest way.
"Yes?" A thirty-something man in jeans and a wrinkled shirt jumped to his feet. Two seats over, an older man looked on in interest.
"Do you love your wife?" House asked as he approached Porter.
"What kind of question is that?"
"Do you love her?" House repeated.
"Of course I do," Porter said.
"How much?" House asked.
"How...? We're...soul mates. We'll be together for eternity."
House found his earnestness nauseating. "Well, one of you is going to be seeing eternity a whole lot sooner than the other unless you stop giving her drugs."
"You are," House insisted. "And if you keep denying it you're going to kill her."
"I would never give Karen that crap. I know what it does to her," Porter insisted. House frowned thoughtfully, then turned to the impeccably dressed man sitting a couple of chairs down.
"You," House said, pointing his cane at the man. "You're her boss, right?"
"Don't care," House said. "You're the one supplying her with cocaine."
"I'm a respected attorney," Mr. Lynch said, stiffening in outrage.
"Yeah, so you probably get a higher quality coke than the regular old ambulance chasers," House said impatiently. "When did you give it to her?"
"I really don't think...." Porter began.
"Obviously. Now shut up and let me talk to your wife's dealer," House said. He fixed his gaze on the oh-so-respectable Mr. Lynch. "I'm not going to call the cops because I can't wait for you to come up with a suitable cover story. I need to know exactly what you gave her and when or she's going to die."
Lynch sputtered and Porter's head went back and forth between the two of them. House merely waited. He had all the time in the world. The patient didn't, but that was kind of the point.
"She asked for a small box from her desk." Lynch finally said. His hands brushed at his suit coat, as if brushing away all assumption of guilt. "I brought it to her. I have no idea what was in it."
"Of course not." House turned and stalked away down the hall. "Cameron!"
"What?" Cameron rushed out of Karen's room and met House in the hall.
"Page cardiothoracic and have them clear an O.R." House glance back at Porter and Lynch. "If we hurry, maybe we can still save enough of her heart muscle for her to live."
"How did the puppy end up with your phone?" House stood near the bedroom door, watching as Wilson hung his clean shirts up. His patient's crisis was over sort of. She was still alive anyway. Now he had to deal with his own crisis.
"I...assume he found it lying wherever I'd forgotten it."
"You told your wives the truth. At least you could do the same for me," House said.
"Truth about what?"
"You slept with Kent." House made the name sound utterly obscene.
Wilson froze for the briefest of moments. "No, I didn't."
"Oh, please," House snapped. "I may be crippled but I'm not deaf, dumb and blind. I saw the two of you."
"Saw what?" Wilson asked.
"You spent the night at his place," House said. "That's why he had your cell phone. Sloppy, Jimmy. Very sloppy."
"I was going to spend the night at his place," Wilson admitted. He planted his hands on his hips and turned to face House. "I was still angry after the board meeting. He offered a place to crash and I figured a bed was better than a couch. Then he made a pass and I left. I must've dropped the phone when I was leaving."
"I think you forgot something between the passing and the leaving parts like sex maybe?"
"I didn't sleep with him."
"You wanted to," House said.
"According to you I want to sleep with everyone. It's my 'pathology'."
"No, loving everyone is your pathology. And that's okay, it's the sleeping with everyone...." House paused to think about what he was actually saying. "Actually, that's not true. The sleeping with everyone is...tolerable. It's the loving everyone that's a problem."
"I don't love Kent."
"But you did want to sleep with him."
"Yes, I did."
Part of House took pride in having forced the admission from Wilson. The rest of him just felt sick.
"I wanted to, for about two seconds," Wilson continued. "Then I left."
"But you wanted to," House said. Why settle for simply plunging the knife in deep when you could do more damage by twisting it? True masochism took work.
"What do you want from me?" Wilson stood directly in front of House. "I have eyes. I see someone attractive and I think about it. I can't help it."
"But you can help what you do about it."
"Which is exactly what I did do," Wilson said. "I said no."
"Wow," House said. "Jimmy Wilson finally learned to say no. And it only took him what? Twenty years?"
"Fuck you," Wilson muttered. He went back to the closet and pulled out an overnight bag. He tossed the bag on the foot of the bed and began grabbing things from the dresser drawers. "I know I've made mistakes in the past, and you probably have every reason not to trust me, but I'm trying. And if that's not good enough for youwell, consider the fact that you're not exactly the easiest guy to live with either."
"This isn't about me."
"I thought it was always about you," Wilson snapped.
"Where are you going?" House asked as Wilson grabbed his bag from the bed. He wanted to tear Wilson apart, strip away every good and decent thing he'd ever done and expose every mistake and lie and betrayal he'd ever made. House also wanted to strip every good thing he'd ever done, too, which frankly wouldn't take nearly as long as it would with Wilson. And he hated the part of himself that wanted to hate Wilson.
"I don't know," Wilson said. He turned away and House grabbed for his arm, allowing his cane to fall to the floor. Wilson looked back, his expression tense.
"You're running away again," House accused.
"Not running away. I'm calling a time-out before this gets completely out of hand. I'm not going to stay here just so you can score points off me." Wilson pulled his arm free. "I'll be in my office."
House limped slowly into the ICU waiting room. It was early, extremely early for House, but he hadn't exactly spent the night in a restful slumber. Between the pain in his leg and the fight with Wilson, he hadn't been able to sleep. He'd sat watching old black and white movies on TV until he dozed off on the couch. He'd woken up with a crick in his neck to match the cramp in his thigh, and feeling oddly displaced.
Mr. Porter was slumped in one of the chairs, still wearing the same wrinkled shirt he'd had on the day before. Porter looked up at the sound of House's cane. He started to rise from the chair, his expression fearful.
"No change," House said before Porter could ask. He waved him back in the chair and took a seat himself. "Her vitals have been stable, which is about the best we can hope for."
Porter nodded and slumped back in his chair. "She'll be okay. She has to be."
"She lied to you," House said. "She's been usingagain. You really want her back after that?"
"Of course I want her back," Porter said. "She's my wife. I love her."
"She lied. Doesn't that bother you?"
"Yes. I hate the drugs. I hate what they do to her, but it's not like she does it on purpose." Porter ran his hands through his already messy hair. "It's a weakness. I hate the weakness, but I don't hate her."
"That makes it easy," House said sarcastically. "Just compartmentalize everything. Put the good stuff in one compartment, the bad stuff in another."
"What?" Porter said sharply. "You've never loved anyone who wasn't perfect? You've always been perfect yourself?"
"It's a matter of degree," House said defensively. Some things were unforgivable. Or maybe it was that some things should be unforgivable. But according to whom? Who made the rules? If Porter decided to forgive his wife, who had the right to tell him he was wrong?"
"There are worse things," Porter said.
"You're an idiot," House said, but his tone wasn't nearly as cutting as it could've been.
"So what?" Porter shrugged as he ran a weary hand over his face. "Maybe that's my weakness."
House wandered out onto the balcony after lunch. His footsteps were slow, slower than pain or lack of sleep necessitated.
Wilson was slumped in his chair facing out, facing nothing. He glanced over the dividing wall as House approached. "Your patient?"
"Critical." House laid his cane on the dividing wall and looked out, trying to see what Wilson saw. "I give her about a fifty-fifty chance."
"Fighting odds," Wilson noted.
"Turns out her boss really was supplying her with cocaine," House said. "Evidently she's a real go-getter, but she go-gets even more with the coke so boss man started keeping a supply at the office."
"Going to report him?"
"Don't have to. Cameron already called the cops."
"Cuddy must be thrilled," Wilson said dryly.
"Oh, yeah, nothing Cuddy likes better than losing a donor," House agreed. "She's still thanking me for making Vogler and his money go away."
"I think I heard her saying something to that effect just the other day." Wilson leaned forward in his chair and rubbed his hands across his face. "I didn't sleep with Kent. I haven't slept with anyone."
"Not this time," House said, but maybe he'd been waiting for it to happen ever since they'd gotten together.
"I would've promised to be faithful. I would've even meant it," Wilson said. "But you wouldn't have believed me."
"I would've believed you meant it," House said.
"But it's not enough, is it?"
"I do trust you."
"Right," Wilson said with a derisive snort. He turned his head and glanced up at House. "You think I'm going to cheat on you but you trust me. How does that work? Is that even possible outside your screwed up mind?"
"Give me a break. I'm under a lot of pressure here."
"You are?" Wilson asked, genuinely confused.
"Julie had it easy," House said. He began pacing along the wall, using the ledge when the throbbing in his thigh made his steps waver. "All your ex-wives had it easy. It was never their fault."
"Of course it wasn't their fault," Wilson said.
"Because the marriages were destined to fail before the 'I do's' were ever said. It was never about who they were; it was about what they were. And what they were was the wrong gender," House said. "But I'm the right gender, which means if this doesn't work it's who I am, not what I am."
"Or who I am," Wilson added.
House nodded. Basically they were screwed no matter what they did.
"We had to start Mrs. Porter on dialysis this morning," Cameron said.
"Not surprising her kidneys tanked." House rubbed at his thigh almost unconsciously as the kids gave the latest report. "With any luck at all they'll recover."
"No other major organ system failure," Chase added. He started to put the coffee stirrer in his mouth but threw it in the trash when he saw House watching him. "And her clotting profile has normalized. Her odds are considerably better than they were two days ago."
"Yeah, she'll bounce right back," House drawled. "And then she'll start snorting again and undo all our hard work."
"No way," Cameron said.
"Way," House said. Sometimes Cameron's faith in the human race was somewhat endearing. Other times it was simply annoying. He looked over, frowning, as Wilson entered the office. Wilson remained silent, his expression was neutral as he took a seat at the other end of the table. House shook his head and looked back at his overly optimistic minions.
"She managed to quit before," Foreman said.
"Then she started again. That's exactly my point." House gave a sharp shake of his head. "After all, what does she have to lose? Hubby will just forgive her again."
"Has it occurred to you that maybe her husband's support will help her to quit?" Cameron said. "That his love gives her something to hold on to? Gives her something to work for?"
"Is that violins I hear?" House said sarcastically. Cameron let out a disgusted huff and slouched back in her chair.
"You don't believe in forgiveness?" Chase asked. Foreman turned his head toward House, one eyebrow raised. Wilson, damn him, remained stubbornly blank.
"That's what people like you have priests for. What I believe is immaterial," House said. Because he knew forgiveness was necessary. Everyone screwed up. Everyone needed to be forgiven for those screw ups. Unfortunately he had trouble with both ends of that equation.
House gestured brusquely toward the door. "Go make sure nothing else falls apart."
House got to his feet as the minions left. He walked straight to the balcony door, acutely aware of Wilson following a few steps behind.
"You hardly have grounds to condemn her for her addiction," Wilson said as soon as they were outside.
House sighed. He should've realized that Wilson wouldn't back off just because they were fighting. Wilson cared more about House's well being than he cared about their relationship.
"I have pain," House pointed out as he leaned against the outer wall.
"Yes, you need medication," Wilson said. "You don't need vicodin."
"You keep giving it to me," House said. "What does that make you? My enabler?"
"I guess so," Wilson said. He leaned back against the wall and stared at his own hands, clearly disconcerted by the accusation. "I'd stop but you'd find some other way to get it. This way at least I know how much you're using."
"Probably," Wilson said with a nod. "I hate that you put me in a position where I have to rationalize."
"You don't have to," House said. "You could say no."
"And leave you to your own devices? I can't do that."
And that was the key, House realized. Wilson had lied, he'd cheated, he'd walked away from more relationships than House could count, but he'd never left House. Not even when House had thought he'd wanted him to.
"You can't break a promise you never made," House said. Wilson had never promised to be faithful anymore than House had promised to control his drug use. Maybe that was for the best. Maybe that was the best they could do, and if it worked for them then who could say they were wrong.
"Meaning you should buy me lunch."
Wilson shoved his hands in his pockets and frowned. "So...we're just going to ignore all of...this?"
"I'm an idiot." House looked away as a rueful smiled crossed his face. He wasn't that big an idiot. He knew they'd have other arguments, maybe even the same one. And they'd deal with it like they always did, by pretending it hadn't happened. Or if it had happened, pretending it didn't matter. He turned back to Wilson. "Then again, you're an idiot, too. We either learn to deal with our mutual idiocy or we walk away right now. I don't give up that easy."
Wilson cocked his head and nodded. "The cafeteria's serving chicken fried steak today. You hate chicken fried steak."
"The deli down the street is always open." House walked back toward his office, his gait easier than it had been in days. "Make mine no pickle."
"House. Damn it, House, wait up."
House grimaced as Larson lumbered up behind him. House would've bet he could outrun Larson in the short term, but one of the disadvantages of missing half a leg was that you could never quite do as much as you thought you could.
"Something you needed?" House asked as he turned to face Larson.
"Apparently something you needed." Larson stepped to the side of the corridor to allow a wheelchair overflowing with a pregnant woman to pass. "You called the pain clinic demanding to be seen. Said you were in extreme pain. Then you canceled."
"Yeah. Pain went away. Sorry to have bothered you." House turned and resumed his journey toward Cuddy's office. She was in court this afternoon, which meant House had a perfect opportunity to search her office looking for evidence of her lunch date. Or any date, really.
"You canceled all your appointments," Larson said, remaining stubbornly at House's side.
"Like I saidpain went away," House said. The extra pain that had started around the time he had the angio had completely gone away. House wasn't sure why. He couldn't explain what had caused it so he couldn't explain its disappearance. Right now he didn't care about explanations. He only cared that the pain was gone.
"All the pain is gone?" Larson asked.
"No," House admitted. He stopped and turned to face Larson. "Look, I'm sure you help a lot of people, but this pain management thing just isn't for me."
"You're getting better."
"Not that much," House said. Not enough to justify the stress and aggravation and the sense of having lost control. Still, it had allowed him to cut back some on the vicodin which, if nothing else, made Wilson happy.
"Some," House added. "It helped some. And I'll keep using the neurontin. So you can mark this one up as a success."
"You can do better," Larson said.
House gave him a rueful smile. "I think if you really knew me, you'd know that I can't."
House adjusted position slightly, setting his beer bottle between his legs. He had his lawn chair, his shades, a straw hat he'd picked up on some long forgotten vacation and best of all, a front row seat.
"Hey, be careful with that."
Foreman looked at House from where he was laboring to carry one end of the couch. "If you don't like the way we're doing it, you can always move it yourself."
"Can't. Have to stay off the leg. Doctor's orders," House said.
"Doesn't count if you're the doctor giving the order," Chase said. He was at the other end of the couch. Since he was taller the couch inclined a bit toward Foreman, which probably meant he was carrying a slightly more awkward load. House thought that probably sucked for Foreman, but if these two geniuses couldn't figure some simple physics they deserved all the aches and pains they got.
"You know," Wilson said slowly as the couch disappeared into the house. He paused next to House, carrying a cardboard box. "It's generally considered rude to gloat."
"It's also fun," House said. He paused to sip at his beer. "If I could figure out a way to con Cameron into fetching my beer, I'd be gloating at her too."
"Cameron's in the kitchen putting things away. She's actually being quite helpful, which is more than I can say for you."
"If I went inside I'd miss this beautiful day," House said indignantly. He spread his hands wide as if to encompass the whole of the great outdoors. "The sun's shining, the birds are singing ."
"How many of those have you had?" Wilson asked with a pointed nod at the beer bottle.
"Since I haven't convinced Cameron to fetch for me, this is still the first." House looked at Wilson and frowned. "You don't look busy. You could fetch me another."
"I'm busy," Wilson insisted. "I'm just not sure what the hell is in this box."
"What's the label say?" House asked.
"Ah...says CDs." Wilson gave the box an experimental shake. "Doesn't sound like CDs. Doesn't feel like them either."
"Could be books. Or the contents of my junk drawer." House shrugged. "Can't remember which."
"Why bother labeling the boxes if the labels aren't right?"
"Because you're incredibly anal."
"I was trying to make the move as smooth as possible," Wilson said.
"Your way's no fun. There's no suspense, no surprise, no wondering where the hell the spaghetti strainer got to."
"No rooting through umpteen boxes in the middle of the night trying to find the lube," Wilson said with a pointed look.
"No, that box I labeled correctly."
"I'm living with a crazy man," Wilson said with a sort of resigned exasperation.
"And you've just now figured that out?" Chase came out of the house, dangling a bottle of beer from his right hand. Foreman followed right behind, similarly equipped.
"No, I just keep hoping if I ignore it, the craziness will stop."
"Denial's his middle name," House told Foreman and Chase.
"Actually, it's Evan." Wilson grabbed the bottle from between House's legs and finished off the last of the beer. "Although, if I'm with you, then I must not be entirely sane either."
"This is what I've been saying all along," Foreman said. Chase grinned as he twisted the cap off his bottle.
"Where'd you get those?" House asked, nodding at the bottle in Foreman's hand.
"You put Cameron in charge of the beer," Chase said.
"I put Cameron in charge of my beer," House said.
"And your beer is safe and sound." Cameron gave him a smug look before producing a fresh bottle from behind her back. House gave her a smug look in return as he screwed the top off the bottle.
Foreman took a long pull at his beer, then turned to Wilson. "There's only about a dozen boxes left to unload."
"Good. Thanks," Wilson said. "Do you need a ride home then?"
"I'm going to take the rental truck back," Foreman said. "Chase is going to follow me and he'll give a ride home."
"Cameron?" Chase asked, because she'd ridden with him that morning. And House definitely intended to follow up on that, find out if that was the only ride Chase had given her.
"I can leave whenever you're ready," Cameron said.
"You finished putting everything away in the kitchen?" House asked.
"No. I don't know where you want everything and if I put it away wrong you'll just bitch about it," Cameron said defensively.
"Wimp," House said. Cameron merely rolled her eyes and went back into the house. Chase and Foreman set their bottles in the grass and disappeared into the back of the truck.
House settled back in his chair and looked up at Wilson. Wilson had a faint, bemused smile on his face as he stared at the house. "What?"
"Just...." Wilson gave a vague wave of his hand. "It doesn't seem quite real yet. You and me, a middle-class house in a middle-class neighborhood, admittedly no picket fence but we have your 'kids,' the ones from your first love," Wilson said with a nod at Chase and Foreman as they carried boxes into the house. "It's almost like we're normal people. Like we're a normal couple."
"It's a brave new world, my friend, and we are its pioneers," House said somberly.
"Please," Wilson scoffed. "We're a couple of horny middle-aged men. We're also fortunate enough to have the positions and the income to be able to do pretty much as we please."
"Exactly." House set his empty bottle in the grass and got to his feet. "Now go find that box with the lube before Chase does, and let's make the most of it."
This story was added on 30 JUNE 2006