Summary: When Wilson unexpectedly gets called away to a medical convention,
House is left to, uh, babysit. Takes places Season 3
Pairing: House/Wilson/other (of sorts) Friendship
Disclaimer: You know how most people don't own 101 dalmations and/or labradors? That's kinda how I don't own House.
Chapters: 1, 2, and 3
Stanley Steamer arrives at 12:04.
House yells, “Door’s unlocked” from the bedroom, although he’s not sure it actually is. Hector scampers by him with a misrepresentatively noble bark, the patter of his paws on the carpet occasionally interrupted by the plastic smack of his bionic leg. House hangs behind while he looks for anything vaguely resembling a leash, leaving Hector to introduce himself.
Hector greets their crotches before giving their grease-stained hands a lick. They give out partially-toothed grins and flop their vacuum hoses on the carpet, generally fulfilling the stereotype.
“Hey, uh Mr. Mouse,” one bellows towards the back of the apartment, some sort of horrific cancer obviously clinging to his uvula. “Gregory Mouse?”
“It’s House,” he says, emerging from the hallway, “but you wouldn’t know anything about those, would you?”
Hector limps back to House and sits down, judging their knees while House judges everything else. House palms a $100 bill out of his back pocket while he says, “So, Stan. What can I do for you?”
“Uh, you um,” starts the first guy (apparently the only one with leftover vocal chords or the balls to speak, or both), “you said there’d be a $100 tip if we—“
“I know,” says House. “Just making sure I still had to pay you.” He brings the bill up to the eye level of Stan (which statistically could’ve been his name, in a very large pinch) and waits for the vacuum man to take the bait. When he does, House rips the bill in half.
“That’s fifty for now,” he explains. “You’ll get the rest after our walk.” He nods to Hector, who for the time being seems rather fascinated with a squirrel perched on the windowsill behind the glass he doesn’t know exists. Therefore, House continues to speak over the yips and whines of a certain fluffy, white dog.
“There’s pee on the rug. There’s bourbon on the carpet. There’s blood by the couch. If the main Stanley asks questions, tell him it’s cranberry juice and there’s no need for hazmat suits. We’ll be back in 45 minutes. Don’t touch the piano.”
A previously ball-less Stanley near the door clears his throat, glaring at Hector. “You gonna walk that thing? He’s got a broken leg” is his astute observation through tobacco-brushed teeth. The look is completed by the unlit cigarette resting between his lips.
House grabs the leash (handily labeled “leash” by one James Wilson) off the hat rack and snaps it onto Hector’s collar. “Well,” he says, “the vet wants to get him used to people again. Says if I get him out and about we’re less likely to have a…recurrence.”
“Recurrence…of what?” he says.
“Oh you didn’t hear? My maid was mauled to death last week. Something about smoking on duty. Seems she got in a few good whacks with her purse. Broke his leg clean in two, poor thing.”
The three Stanleys stand in gape-mouthed silence as House grabs a cabbie hat from the rack and sets it on his head. “Come along, Romulus, time for your walk.” He opens the door and lets Hector out, tipping his hat. “Have fun.” Stanley Number Two discreetly plucks the cigarette from his mouth.
House doesn’t hear the phone ring.
The traffic’s breeze shuffles through the trees in the natural wind’s stead. It’s a phenomenon typically ignored in Frost poetry, but they don’t care. The effect’s the same. House has time to enjoy it now, sans politically correct games of catch-up.
In fact, House discovers at the corner of Proult and Bower that walking besides anyone but an injured lap-dog is a little like being a dyslexic news anchor, or a six year-old reading Hamlet, meaning that if the choice isn’t to kill oneself or not to kill oneself, then it’s definitely whether or not to wait for the handicapped. Because it is, in fact, just that. A game. One of status and guilt. Wilson waits. House never tells him he feels guilty. Wilson never tells him he’s in a hurry. Wilson doesn’t wait. Wilson does tell him he feels guilty. House doesn’t tell him he feels proud. To be or not to be.
It’s different with Hector. House tugs him along, pausing occasionally whenever Hector needs to pee or needs to sniff someone else’s pee. He poops in front of the Bower Park gates. Hector, that is. House is glad plastic baggies never crossed his mind.
House can feel his cell phone vibrating in his left pocket. Physically, he ignores it. Mentally, there’s work to be done. First he wonders why he even took the damn thing out of the house, then there’s the matter of who’s calling, and for what, and it isn’t until he’s concluded that they only people who’d call would be the team and Wilson, and that Wilson would only call his cell phone under extremely drunk circumstances, that he gets in line at the food stand with the intent of purchasing a cheeseburger and a hot chocolate.
If it is the team, and it probably is, it’s nothing that can’t wait 14 more hours, as Cuddy rarely gives him patients who won’t last the night. And if she does, it’s only when he’s doing something fun. Strip poker with strangers would be an example.
The only strangers here are five year-olds. House draws the line at age 13.
Hector takes a seat on the cool pavement while House shifts his weight off his left leg and onto his cane, if only to spare his pelvis a few hours at the chiropractor. He looks longingly at the bench to his right as the line moves forward.
His phone rings again. He doesn’t answer it again. But as an attractive and hopelessly single mother steps into line to tend to the snot-riddled nose of her young son, House deems the discount of his cell phone utterly justified.
He prods Hector with his toe until the dog makes a quiet chirp of discontent. She looks at him. He smiles. “Hush, Hershey,” he says, shaking his head while smiling at nobody in particular.
Then he hears it—the sharp intake of breath, the slight click of her lips against dental hygienist teeth, the pang of her necklace on the top button of her j.crew cardigan as she leans over. Now comes the “Aw.”
“Awww, he’s adorable.” She leans over further and House swears he can smell the silicone. She scratches Hector behind the ear and he doesn’t seem to mind either. “What’s his name?”
“Hershey. I know he doesn’t look very chocolaty, but he’s just so sweet,” says House, mouth open awkwardly around the bullshit that spews from it.
“You are too cute.” She stands up and makes eye contact with House while he struggles not to make eye contact with her breasts. He unconsciously slides his cane behind himself.
She bends over again, and House thinks maybe he hears Hector (in Wilson’s voice, of course) whisper, Thank God. Hector rolls onto his back while the woman rubs his belly, causing his good leg to perform the ever-clichéd rhythmic puppy kick. His tongue rolls out onto the pavement at what appears to be his thankfully quiet climax of the...experience. She finishes with a quick pat, and Hector seems very pleased. House suspects this is because this is the closest Wilson’s gotten to getting some in a very long time.
She looks back to House while making one of those whining pity scoffs that only women in their thirties can make and asks, “What happened to his paw?”
“Oh,” House starts, inching his way forward in line and only slightly dragging Hector, “I just adopted him from the humane society. Seems his previous owner didn’t treat him very well.”
Genius, House. Friggin’ genius, is Hector’s small endearment.
“Oh my God; that’s awful,” she says. She reaches the front of the line with her son and his boogers and orders two hot chocolates. She then hands five dollars of “allowance money” to her son and tells him to give the money to the cashier when he asks for it.
House takes an extra step forward and motions to the vendor that he’ll pay, as it’s a well known fact among single parents that afternoon hot cocoas are the equivalent to late night daiquiris and jello shots. Only thing better is probably coffee, but coffee doesn’t come with marshmallows. Therefore, on a brisk yet sunny day in winter, House metaphorically buys a woman a daiquiri.
And now, he waits for the reaction. She’s either a recent divorcee, starved for independence, or a longtime loner, desperately searching to reach out and start anew. House isn’t particularly fond of either option, but as both could potentially get him laid, he resists hasty assumptions and lets his arm slide softly along her shoulder as he holds the five dollars out to the cashier.
“Oh, you really don’t have to do that,” she says, very intentionally keeping her arm (and therefore his arm) in the same position.
“It's fine,” says House, bashfully, “I'm a doctor." He throws in a wink, leans toward the kid and says, “Besides, I bet you’ll want to spend your money at the Devils game this weekend.”
Until this very moment he's forgotten that this mindless "hey slugger" lingo is about the only thing that’ll get him laid for free in this town. With the soccer mom crowd, that is. Not that he minds paying all that much, just that it’s the challenge that’s the real turn on.
It’s his turn in line, and he orders two cheeseburgers—one with pickles and one without. He tosses the pickled burger to Hector, who gobbles it down as if it’s the first meal he’s had in two days, and it is. House makes his way somewhat subconsciously over to the bench…where the woman is also heading.
Hiding a misanthropic world view and several deep personality flaws are one thing, but House finds, as he struggles to keep up with a 98 year-old (in dog years, of course) arthritic mutt, that hiding a lurching gait proportionate to several low-impact car crashes is quite different. Different in the sense that it doesn’t work. He watches as the woman’s eyes sink to his cane, and then to his leg. She gazes down to his foot and up to his thigh, probably searching for a brace or cast or some other indication that the limp is only temporary, and when she finds none, House senses her grip tighten around her boy’s wrist in a small if somewhat desperate attempt to keep him quiet.
Thus, to counter her judgments as of late, he does not sit down upon reaching the bench, but rather stands up straight, left hand gripping the armrest of said bench only for stability. Of course, he’ll regret this later.
“How did you know?” says the woman distractedly.
She indicates Booger Boy. “Aaron loves the New Jersey Devils. Never misses a game on TV. Practically never misses them in person.”
“Well, this is New Jersey,” says House, his patience failing him at about the rate his leg is. “The hat was a pretty good tip-off, too.”
The woman looks back at her son, this time to the Devils beanie conveniently located on his head. “Oh,” she says, “I’m sorry; I completely forgot. I—God, you must think I’m so—“
Stupid, is Hector’s imaginary cutoff.
“What’s wrong with your leg?” is Booger Boy’s real cutoff, and Mother Dimwit literally turns a shade of green at the words. And it isn’t just pale, either. It’s green. Faded kelly green, like an old pickup truck that’s seen too many drunken dawns.
“Got shot on duty,” says House, and it hits him that the lie is somewhat true. “How’s that for irony?” His own inflection reminds him vaguely of Lloyd Christmas from Dumb and Dumber...something about Big Gulps. He suspects he’ll figure out the specifics later.
“Which hospital do you work at?” says the woman, so obviously trying to change the subject.
“Oh, that’s where we go."
Hector licks his lips. Whoa, small world. And there's so many hospitals to choose from.
She, ever oblivious, continues. "Maybe we’ll see you there some time, Dr...?”
“Wilson,” says House.
Can’t go wrong there, says Hector.
“Oh,” she’s says, lips tightening around the syllable like it’s the small mammal to her inner anaconda. “We used to know a Dr. Wilson there.”
“Funny,” she muses, and House suspects it’s actually not funny at all, to people who give a damn, that is. People like Wilson. “I mean, what a coincidence.”
“Well,” House starts, disguising a wince as that odd if somewhat commonplace face people make when trying to remember things. He shifts his weight from his cane back to his left leg and watches his new friends stiffen at the perceived sign of weakness. He continues, “It is something like the 8th most popular last name in America. What was his first name, your Dr. Wilson?”
She sits up. “Oh, he wasn’t my—“
“Uncle Jimmy!” says Booger Boy excitedly.
House smiles. “Oh yes, James Wilson.”
“You know him?” she asks, and House knows better.
“I know of him. He’s an acquaintance really. How did you say you knew him?”
Hectors settles contentedly between House’s shoes. Well played, sir.
“We used to date,” says the woman, emphasizing ‘used to’ as if in the process of overcoming a terrible speech impediment.
House chooses this moment to sit down, only because it might not look like he desperately needs to. “I’m sorry to hear that,” he says. “That it didn’t work out, not that you dated him,” he says, which leads into a strategically placed laugh…by both parties.
“I’m not,” she says. She looks at Booger Boy, giving him the sort of suspicious glare employed by most mothers when asking if their children’s teeth have been brushed. Then she looks back to House. “He had this friend, some low-life drug addict going nowhere fast…I always respected Jim’s need to help the guy out of tight spots, but eventually it became too much. I mean, the guy called at all hours of the night…I mean, all hours,” she adds through gritted teeth, giving a nod in Booger Boy’s direction.
“It’s just hard to be with someone when they so obviously want to be with someone else," she says, trailing off for some sort of dramatic effect (the kind she isn't skilled in employing). "Anyways, one night at dinner I came right out and accused him of being in love with this man. That didn’t sit well with Jim, obviously…” She stares forward for a while as if envisioning it all in romantic, technicolor detail, complete with an ostinato bass, soaring violins, and introspective voice overs. James Wilson is that good.
A moment later she cuts herself from the scene, new grief on her face, like she just remembered that Wilson did not send her off dramatically on a Lockheed Electra Aeroplane, nor did he remind her that they'd always have Paris, or anywhere else, for that matter.
“I’m sorry,” she says, shaking her head good-humoredly, “here you just asked me if I knew the man and I’ve gone on some long tangent again. That’s just like me, isn’t it, Aaron?”
Aaron nods his head like he knows he’s supposed to.
“So this Wilson guy,” says House, only slightly losing his everyman falsetto, “what’d he say when you asked him?”
“Asked him what?”
“Whether or not he was in love with the guy, whatshisface…”
“Oh, I can’t remember his name. It was something like Horse, or Hauser or—“
House’s gaze falls instinctively on Hector, as if his eyes will meet Hector’s at the chasm of calls and answers, and all undecipherable queries related to human existence will cease to exist. But Hector’s not looking at him. Hector’s straining at his leash in the other direction, tail wagging furiously, determination waxing as the voice calls out again.
There’s a strange authenticity in the voice, embedded in vocal chords apparently just past puberty. House looks up knowing it will be Wilson, because it is.
He marches toward them, elbows flexed and hands dangerously close to his hips. His tie looks as it always does—one tug away from suicide.
“That’s it! House!” says the woman, equally amazed and perplexed as she squints in the direction of the odd nonstranger.
As seconds pass and Wilson steps ever closer, those emotions become mere pebbles beneath the great mountain of her disgust. He’s plainly visible now, like that annoying moth on the corner of a television screen. He stands silent at about 15 feet away, squinting back, converting any well-deserved anger toward House into energy for the sake of his visual acuity.
She speaks first. “James?”
He takes a step closer. “Cynthia?”
House looks at Booger Boy. “Shit.”
Wilson finally reaches the bench, eyes darting confusedly between House and Cynthia. “House, what’s going on?” His fingers find the hair above his own ear and begin scratching—an ancient, primal tick of anxiety coming back to haunt him. “You two…know each other?”
“Not biblically,” says House. “Yet.”
“You.” Cynthia stammers, and for a moment, House thinks that might be all she has to say, but her grip on Booger Boy tightens, as do her lips in preparation of what is sure to be a real zinger. “Y-You’re him!”
And were this the playground of a school for privileged youngsters, and “him” was slang for “the musty hobo at the corner of 1st and Main,” a real zinger it might have been.
Wilson’s eyes grow wide as he tries to explain that which he does not yet know, but muted gurgles are all he is truly able to articulate. Hector paws impatiently at his pant leg, waiting for Wilson to say hello or feed him or drop dead.
When Wilson does none of these, he sits, mimicking House’s apparent detachment from the situation.
House remains seated, his right hand casually sitting atop his right thigh, cool needle pricks of pain casually dancing upward through his skin. “If I were ‘him,’ would that hypothetically limit the chance of getting your number?”
He makes eye contact with her for what seems like the first time. He swears he sees flames. Hot, orange flames lapping at her eyelashes from the depths of her irises, the color of which he can’t recall. And though Wilson is standing mere feet away, for some reason, only his Wilson proxy answers.
You think that’s a medical problem, or just a neat way to keep the kid entertained?
“Beats me,” he says.
That’s the reaction of Wilson…or Cynthia. Both, is probably a safe bet. They sit silently for a second, the three of them soaking in their own hostilities and wondering if they might be having fun right now.
Cynthia is the first to break the spell. She boosts her flames to level 11 and points those flames at Wilson, who flinches ever so slightly, like a man who’s been married at one time or another.
“James, if this is one of your stupid schemes to get me to—“
“Would you shut up for maybe one second of your life?” asks House. He gives her a lighthearted smile to let her know his offer’s still on the table, and says, “Thanks, much appreciated.”
He looks at Wilson, allowing his voice to drop an octave, once more finding the layer of sludge that typically coats his vocal chords and therefore regaining normalcy as he knows it. “What are you doing here?”
Wilson continues staring at Cynthia, mouth slightly parted, eyebrows resting on his eyelashes. He looks hurt, and House knows this only because Hector’s been home to remind him of the facial expression. He pokes Wilson until Wilson grants him eye contact. But by then, he doesn’t exactly look hurt. It’s an expression past exasperation, anger; well shy of furious though. It’s a hybrid of every Wilson emotion, the faulty color wheel of a very old computer.
“I called six times,” he says.
“And if I were a 911 operator, that would matter,” says House, selecting this moment to find his cuticles interesting.
“Six times, House. I could’ve bleeding in a ditch on the turnpike.”
“Another reason I’m not a 911 operator,” House says. He shifts a bit on the bench, trying not to wince, and gives a wink to Cynthia. “I am a very, very good doctor though.”
Cynthia stands, prying Booger Boy into a standing position as well. “You’re an asshole,” she says.
“Didn’t I just tell you to shut up?”
Wilson rubs his lips together nervously and waves a peaceful hand in front of Cynthia, his eyes begging her to stay, to understand, like…well…a dog. “Cynthia, I’m sorry.” His tone hardens as he looks to House. “House—“
“You’re here now,” says House offhandedly. “Talk.” He rubs his thumb over his thigh futilely, feeling the bottle in his pocket and the time since his last pill.
Wilson notices, but knows he’s not allowed to say anything. He is of course, well trained. “My last lecture got cancelled,” he says, speaking mechanically, as if into an answering machine. “I’m…coming home early.”
“Well, thank God you made it here to tell me that.” House shoves a hand in his pocket and manages to pop the cap off the bottle. He squints. “How did you know I was here?”
“Stan said you took the dog for a walk.”
“One of the guys cleaning blood off your carpet. Followed the blood trail from there to here, seeing as it's the only place within...your walking distance.” The sheer amount of smugness is unnecessary, as is the continued blood reference, but it makes House happy, if not visibly.
“Wait. His name was actually Stan?”
“That’s what everyone called him.”
House stands up, swallowing the pill he’d palmed during Wilson’s explanation. “What are the odds?” he asks quietly, referring of course to the very small pinch of Stan being Stan.
“Should’ve played Powerball,” grunts Wilson, his voice cracking on every third syllable. He mops a hand across his forehead despite the chilly air as the stress of his day nestles in amongst the other aches in his neck.
Booger Boy keeps asking if that’s Uncle Jim. Hector hides beneath the bench, tail swishing through the air in yearn of adventure. But as he has Wilson’s soul, he knows better. There’ll always be great adventures to be had…by somebody else.
And Cynthia doesn’t like being ignored. “Well,” she says, hanging all the negativity in the world on that one small interjection. “I hope you two are happy together.” She stomps. She literally stamps her foot. Instinct tells House to look at the ground, search for any cracks, or any mothers keeling over with broken backs. Everything else tells him to laugh, and he does. She grabs Booger Boy by the wrist and leaves. “Match made in Heaven,” she mumbles.
House can tell that “Cynthia” is prying at Wilson’s shut lips, desperate to share itself like a battle cry of lost love (or bullshit). But he is silenced by the sound of Booger Boy’s tongue whilst it vibrates against his lips, which rudely display it for the world (meaning, of course, House and Wilson) to see. House flips the kid off.
House sits down, as does Wilson, and the world seems slower, once again boring. No more or less empty though, at least from House’s perspective. He’d dish out $300 tonight for a professional, wouldn’t bother to think about the latest one to get away.
It takes Wilson a while to speak. “Does she think that we’re…”
“Besties? Of course,” says House, “I showed her the scar from where we cut our palms and shook hands, vowing to truly become blood brothers.”
“Odd, I don’t remember that.”
“Well, I wouldn’t either, if not for the little reminder you gave me.”
“Don’t sweat it, Jim. In Africa, HIV is considered a lovely gift.”
Wilson laughs, stretching out his legs as Hector sneaks out from under the bench. “Only the best for my bestie,” he says. “So, were you exploring strange new worlds with the U.S.S. Little Greg? Or is this another diabolical scheme to do something diabolical?
House ruffles the fur on Hector’s back with his left sneaker, finding some odd balance of cruelty and kindness in the process. Wilson notices. “Actually, I was exploring strange old worlds. You know, where 10 penises have gone before,” says House.
“Well, I can’t say I’m…” House scrunches his chin before saying anything further. “Seriously?”
“Look at the woman,” says Wilson, and House does. She’s not more than a speck by now, noticeable only by the telltale hip swing of a woman looking to forget something and the barrier of hormonal possessiveness she’s built around herself and her 34 Ds. “She’s obviously desperate. Which is the only reason she gave you a chance instead of pity.” He catches House in a grimace, one built on impatience and an unnatural lag in the placebo effect. “On second thought…” says Wilson.
House jolts upward slightly, eyes wide open. “I’m fine,” he lies. “So, that kid…”
It’s an excellent deflection, if he says so himself. Hector now paws at House’s jeans, his back legs searching for purchase against the concrete (a hunt made harder by the added weight on his front paw). He appears to be stuck half-way through a heroic jump to the bench, because he is.
“Riiight,” whispers House. “Who the hell has a kid without sex? That’s like, gaining a hundred pounds without the Twinkies.”
“She likes kids. I thought she was nice. I…explored.”
“How long ago exactly did your…exploration occur?”
“We broke up three weeks, four days ago,” Wilson mumbles.
“Still counting days. She must be good,” says House. “Great picking there, Tex,” he adds, giving Hector a thumbs up. Hector whines, prompting House to grab his cane.
But instead of beating the thing, which he would most certainly do if Stanley Steamer also cleaned blood off of concrete, he uses the handle to lift Hector’s stomach, and the dog finds its way onto House’s lap. He pretends not to notice.
Wilson tilts his head. “Wait…Hector…led you to Cynthia? Did he remember her?”
“I don’t know; care to ask him yourself?”
And Wilson very well could. And House is sure he’d find a beautiful way to phrase his inquiry to Hector, but Hector won’t answer. At least, not in the way he would answer House.
House watches them both as Wilson goes on about heavy petting (or maybe it’s just petting) and caring. He wonders if Hector is different around Wilson, if Hector looks at Wilson with those big dumb eyes and Wilson hears House’s voice, sees the sharpness of House’s stare inexplicably ingrained in the cataract-cloudy stupidity.
But of course, that would imply that House and Hector are somehow alike, which of course, they aren’t. House reminds himself of this fact while nodding, perhaps giving Wilson the idea that he’s listening.
“You do, don’t you?” says Wilson, smug grin buried only millimeters beneath those dimples.
“You care about him.”
“If by ‘care’ you mean, ‘don’t want him to die because you would probably blame me,' then yeah, I totally care.”
“No, no…you took him on a walk.”
“Because the bastard peed on my floor.”
Wilson shakes his head, smiling. He gives Hector a pat on the head, and Hector licks his hand appropriately, but stays in House’s lap. “Did you hurt him?” he asks.
“What? No,” says House, admittedly caught off guard by the question. “Why? Does he, you know, look okay?”
“He looks great. A little thin, but I was actually talking about this,” says Wilson knocking on the lacrosse pad splint of an unflinching Hector.
“Damn thing wouldn’t stop whining,” House says, looking at nobody.
Wilson nods, and they fall silent again. Ten more minutes roll by, feeling only like five, of course, as all three are tired and envious of those who breeze by with enough energy/mobility to run. Hector is dozing by the time Wilson finds the need to speak again, head perched atop House’s right thigh, somehow oblivious to the situation altogether while knowing not to move.
Hector’s warm, like an old heating pad ebbing away at the residual aches, stopping some of the new twinges. A fluffy, warm shield that actually wants to be right where he is, and House can’t help thinking the dog’s even dumber for it.
Wilson clears his throat. “Called Cuddy.”
“Told her you’re a daddy?”
“She wants me back tomorrow,” says Wilson—the set-up statement for “it’s late,” which will be followed by “I have to go.”
House doesn’t care. If they leave, then they’ll leave. He’ll go back to the apartment and sit on the carpet, just to test it out, and drink the rest of their bourbon. His bourbon. He’ll never cough up the other half of the $100 bill, but he has a feeling Stan will get by. In fact, he has a feeling Stan’s information didn’t come free. And somehow that Pink Floyd album will find its way back to his shelf. It always does. He’ll listen to it alone because that’s the only way it can be appreciated. And he won’t be happy. Of course he won’t be happy. But in an hour from now, when Wilson and Hector are gone, he won’t be any less happy than he is right now.
And despite all of this, he turns to Wilson and says, “You look tired.”
The words are nearly foreign on his tongue, and obviously foreign to Wilson’s ears as he replies, “I am tired.”
House gives Hector’s head a pat and sets him down between Wilson and himself, wincing at the release of pressure on his leg. “Tell you what,” he says, “I will watch your mutt for one more night, sparing you the marvelous task of collecting his goodies from my place, if you give me…the $200 left over from your latest ATM visit.” House throws in a sadistic smile, “You know, where you got the dough to bribe Stan.”
Wilson shoots back a crooked smile of his own, leaning back and stretching his arms overhead. “Ah yes, Stan and his money woes. They go together like, you and the screwing of my exes.”
“I was not going to screw your ex.”
“Oh, really. What other reason do you have for talking to her then?”
House coughs flippantly, baring his teeth in a sort of half-friendly smile. “In case you haven’t noticed, I had two reasons. They were just below her necklace, very expensive?”
“I thought you said—“
“But those ones in particular were for looking, not touching. Like…jellyfish.” He tilts his head. “Actually, that metaphor works on more than one level. I’ve gotta tell Chase. They’ve got some real bastard jellyfish in Australia, right?”
“They’ve got some bastard boobs in Australia, too,” Wilson mutters.
House presses onward. “Come on, tell me you wouldn’t do her again if you could.”
“Of course, but the ‘if I could’ part would only follow extreme inebriation.”
“For you or for her?”
House lands a soft punch on Wilson’s shoulder. “I bought her hot cocoa, buddy. She’s halfway there,” he says. “For you though…I don’t know, those pills that said ‘NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION’ made me feel sort of funny.”
Hector licks Wilson’s hands as they exchange slanderous remarks and disparaging breast-related observations.
“So,” Wilson starts, his cue for retracing the object at hand. “Fifty bucks.”
“For him?” asks House, pointing to Hector with disdain. “You obviously have not spent enough time with this mongrel to know the true darkness of his soul, or lack there of. He killed your cleaning lady. $150.”
“You fired my cleaning lady because she refused to do your dishes and laundry for the entire week. $100.”
“Last time I checked, the dishes needed to be cleaned. I guess the name of her occupation confused me, and deal.”
Wilson looks over House and Hector together, just for a second, as long as House can tolerate being gawked at. He grabs his wallet from his back pocket and pulls out one crisp bill, one of the few whole bills House had seen all day.
Handing it to House, well, that’s just outing him as a normal person, as equally prone to canine hypnosis as any asshole roaming the park in search of a good time. He might as well be ordering his ‘LabLvr’ license plates.
“This could be good for you,” he says, suspecting House already knows.
“Hundred bucks? I’ll say. I keep this up, I just might be able to pursue my dreams of running public service for Southwest airlines.”
He knows Wilson’s not talking about the money, but as long as Wilson doesn’t know he knows, he’s in the clear.
Wilson steps up, and into poo, which has been lovingly laid before him by the dog once sitting beside him.
“Told you your dog is a bastard,” says House.
“He’s not my dog.”
Wilson gives House a quick nod and stomps awkwardly down the path, pieces of Hector breaking off in clumps as he goes.
But Hector stays, intent on licking House’s face free of stubble before sundown. House doesn’t think about how filthy a concept it really is, for once.
And for the first time, Hector differs with Wilson in a way House doesn’t expect, tells him something he doesn’t know. And he’s not sure if he likes it, but he is sure that if he were to talk to Hector now, Hector wouldn’t talk back. At least, not in Wilson’s voice, and probably not at all. Dogs tend to be quiet that way.
House puts his hands in his coat pockets, not intending to put up a fight. He’s brought the office home with him though, one way or another. There, in his right hand, in the depths of his right pocket, sits a red rubber ball.
Hector stops licking him, opting instead to keep the seat beside him warm, maybe with the thought that Wilson might be back; maybe with the thought that it’s cold out, that he’s cold; maybe with no thought at all.
They sit in silence while House keeps the ball in his pocket.
Maybe tomorrow, he thinks. For now, he has no puzzles to solve with it and no wall off which he cares to bounce it. Tomorrow, he might just throw it, and hope somebody else will bring it back.