When: Logically, this gets put somewhere around 6:30-7:00 P.M., Monday evening, as the
Where: PPTH field-->Lobby/Corridors-->Dean's office
What: He just can't let well enough alone.
Notes: There may be a little adult capering later on in this one. Consider yourself warned.
Welcome to the Seventh Circle of Hell.
Greg House would later reflect that there were an extraordinary number of things that he, in his relatively checkered medical career, had seen that would have frightened away most normal people: organs rupturing, parasites leeching life from patients even as those patients themselves turned psychotic and paranoid; backstabbing physicians, manipulations and human error, all manner of blood and gore and guts and the eventual -- if inevitable -- final failures. He'd seen illness bring out the worst in humanity, and he'd seen every version of lying, cheating, stealing and self-preservation that he really thought humankind as a whole was capable of. Kind of impressive, if you really stopped to think about it, the lows to which people sank, the ease with which they tossed aside all pretense of "goodness" when it was their own ass on the line.
Some of these had been his colleagues.
But even with all he'd seen during his time at Princeton-Plainsboro, House was absolutely certain by Monday evening that a special circle of Hades had purposefully been constructed for him in the form of a faux-cheery and far-too-social outdoor staff event. He wouldn't dignify it by referring to it as a "barbeque"; even the thought had made him snort derisively when he'd heard the phrase pass Cameron's lips. I'd like to plan to not be there, he'd absently told his team when the subject had come up... but here he was, after all. Caught and snared.
Pinned like a bug on a slide, and there was no way in hell that his being there had anything to do with the fact that, like a moth to a candle flame that instead of warming it will light its wings on fire and singe it to death in one screaming burst of antennae-disintegrating blaze, he'd wanted a chance to talk to Cuddy.
Maybe to reiterate his stance: You're an idiot. Christ knew that that itself would be as satisfying as a... well. Incredibly satisfying, anyway.
Nope. He was a doctor, after all, that's why they paid him the big bucks, and it was a rule or something that the on-call doctors had to be present. Who knew.
Nothing at all to do with anything, least of all a three in the morning spent aimlessly composing on his solitary piano.
But it was suitably inane enough to make him feel as if the skin was crawling off the back of his neck within five and a half minutes, and he spent the better part of half an hour devising cruel and unique tortures for all of those involved that were either partly responsible for his presence, or who just as a rule pissed him off.
See, that's Miller. Cardiology. Looks like a truck ran over his face and no one could tell the difference. His wife was supposed to be covering for one of the other doctors today, but she's off having a baby or something... think it's something in the water? I remember when he tried to snag me up with the Board for fudging that transplant. Well, what the hell did he expect me to do? Tell the truth? Do the noble thing, and let some little girl die? Tough shit all around. I did manage to swap his Sweet'N'Low for Adderall that next morning, though. Like a tom on catnip, it was truly beautiful to behold. Christ, what am I even doing here?
He'd lurked on the fringes for as long as he could possibly get away with it, but when he'd seen Cameron come swooping by looking both exhausted and accomplished -- with an undertone of something else that he couldn't quite place from this distance -- he'd slunk off through the crowd, avoiding eye contact wherever possible and doing his best to terrify everyone else when it wasn't, scanning backs and sweaters and windbreakers until he finally caught sight of the world's most familiar ugly tie. Thank God, a fucking oasis.
Only Wilson could pair casual with... well... ugly, but at this point House was so relieved to see the back of Wilson's carefully-overcombed head that he was willing to overlook the baby-vomit-colored apparel accessories. [House himself had simply dressed as he might have any other day, without bothering to think it over too deeply: jeans and black-and-red tennis shoes, the nifty gel kind. A faded red KISS T-shirt with a black semi-patterned[all right, a Hawaiian knockoff, of sorts, but one with dignity, damnit, black and gray, not those horrid clashing nightmares in Wilson's closet] button-down thrown haphazardly over it. Although the day was fairly cool, he'd abandoned his sportcoat at his bike, although he kept the Vicodin bottle stashed safely in his jeans pocket.
Wilson -- chatting up someone, and House felt the familiar and yet mildly uncomfortable flash of something, knowing somehow that there was something more, here, than met the eye but not curious enough in the puzzle of Wilson to try and figure it out just yet -- hadn't looked too pleased to see him, and House figured that that might have had something to do with the fact that they'd almost killed each other that night in his apartment. Well, not quite literally. But nevertheless, he turned his attention to House and, when House asked if he'd "cover for him with Dr. Doom" if he were to partake in the available beverages, seeing as "how I'm on-call, or something", Wilson merely shook his head, rolled his eyes, and waved that hand: Yes, fine, go ahead.
"Enabler," House had smirked at him, already fidgeting and using the hem of Wilson's jacket to pop the top off a semi-cold beer bottle. This is so fucking stupid, I might as well just go back in to the office and hide behind my desk until someone wonders where I am... not that they would, in any case. Get Wilson to say I'm in the bathroom.
Another twenty minutes and two extra beers[okay, and a wine cooler; but who's counting? And it wasn't like he was a lightweight by any stretch of the imagination] and a casually-thrown pebble[he'd just had to; it'd landed in the Head Cardiologist's Cup Of Whatever and splashed all over the pretty petite blonde he'd been chatting up... the one that definitely wasn't his wife, to say the least. House had actually been really proud of that one: the clumsy splash had landed on Pretty Petite's Not-So-Petite Cleavage, and she'd gotten all wide-eyed and smacked Mr. Butterfingers hard enough to turn heads all around.
...as she stalked off, Miller had turned and quite accidentally met House's gaze; House had shrugged and tossed the extra pebble in his palm directly into one of the gathered trash receptacles. In full ironic view. Score. Perfect shot. Bad luck, there, my man, and then he'd grinned in victory] later, he'd been about to do just that: he opened his mouth to implicate Wilson in his alibi when voices from his eight o'clock shoulder made him pause in mid-sentence.
And sure enough, just when he'd thought he was free and clear.
Enter Dr. Doom.
For a moment House did what he did best, ignoring the fact that Wilson was staring at him -- first in patient expectation for him to finish his damn sentence, next in annoyance, and lastly in curiosity -- he simply sat back and watched, taking in information, processing it, distilling it into interpretation. It's what made him damn good at his job, what made him the best, but some people said that it was also what put up that impenetrable fourth wall between him and everyone else: everything became a puzzle to him. Information to be processed, analyzed, filed. And most people didn't like to be told why their husband ought to be having an affair if he wasn't already, or why their children were doing drugs that might kill them because Mommy and Daddy are just a little too overbearing.
All you do is substitute your own rules for society’s. That’s a nice, simple rule – tell the blunt, honest truth in the starkest, darkest way. And what will be, will be. What will be, should be. And everyone else is a coward.
He probably also hadn't figured out that he'd been shoving everyone by the wayside for weeks, that his team had begun to ever-so-slightly casually mistrust him -- not necessarily as a diagnostician, he hadn't fucked up that badly, yet, but as a boss, as a person to be reckoned with in an unstable way -- and that even Wilson was even further down his neck than usual.
They thought it was the leg.
Wilson thought it was the drugs.
And all of them were right... while simultaneously being so brutally, mind-bendingly wrong that it was all he could do some days not to simply laugh in their faces.
Fuck, even he wasn't entirely sure what was wrong with him. House had gotten used to a familiar series of feelings over the last eight or ten years. Pain. That was a given. The adrenal spike-rush of a new case, a new puzzle, something shiny to take apart and solve when the ultimate prize was the patient's life, and he did what he did so that they could go home with that prize; no matter what his ultimate, private motivations might be. And who gave a shit, really? They were alive to worry about it. Chalk it up as a point and go home already. The deep, festering, unsutured wound that was Stacy. The old betrayals. Resentment, morbid amusement toward all people in general.
But this? This was a new one.
And, sing it in a Greek chorus all together: Dr. House loathed the odd detail out.
You can't forgive me for authorizing the surgery on your leg, which I can accept and live with. I cannot, however, tie my child to that.
It was this awareness, this anomaly, that odd conflict of emotional whatever that coiled in his stomach, that made House scowl in the general direction of where Cuddy was currently attempting to make Important Big Boss Dean of Medicine Small Talk with some faceless person or another. But after seeing her nearly every day for going on nine years, now, he could read something different in her body language. Maybe it was just a tilt in the shoulders, or the frown line between her eyebrows[Lycanthrope eyebrows, he'd told her through a mouthful of chips once years ago, and she had not been amused]... but more likely, it looked like...
Something's wrong, was the thought, but in Greg House's mind it immediately became something a lot less polite: She went and fucked it up.
No one else might have noticed.
And later he never knew quite why he'd muttered to Wilson that he had to take a crap, and to make sure no one came looking for him, stuffed the empty bottles into Wilson's free hand[except for the half-full one he was still currently holding], and shifted his palm on the smooth handle of his cane long enough to make his deliberate, limping way across the idiotic space full of equally idiotic, well, idiots. Few people would have stopped to converse with him on a normal day, but he did make quite a few of them awkward by pausing at random intervals to burst out, "Hey! Joe! How's that bladder issue working out for you?" simply to forestall his progress.
By the time he caught her out of the corner of his eye picking up a coffee-pot-sized cooler from one of the listing tables and turning back for the side stairwell, he was already on his way to the elevators.
Fuck it. At the very least, it's a more interesting riddle than what Johnny Jerkoff had for breakfast and how well the new Cancer Wing's coming along. And at least it won't be boring.
His footsteps drag-tap-scuffed oddly in the comparative silence; most of the doctors who weren't on current rotation or whose patients didn't require their constant supervision were currently off, socializing, drinking, making complete and utter asses of themselves, who knew. But something made him pause, resting the cane lightly on the floor, having followed Cuddy to her office about two full minutes behind her.
He was still angry, and -- although no one, even Wilson, could ever have dragged it out of him: infarction, chainsaw, amputation, he'd never say a fucking word, as far as he was currently concerned -- hurt. He was righteously pissed as only the privileged egocentric can be: why ask for his opinion, then? And he was pissed off beyond all rational measure that for all the times she'd accused him of not thinking with his brain[or some version of that platitude, anyway], she was letting some imagined obligation throw everything[Including your focus, that infuriating internal monologue chimed in helpfully] to the fucking four winds.
Do you really want to find out? The voice of reason, as it were. Or what passed for Greg House's voice of reason, anyway.
Nope, he answered himself internally, and quite cheerfully. But I'm gonna anyway.
And he poked the barely-open door with the end of his cane and gave a shove.